(Reuters) - Patrick Reed has long strived to prove he belongs among the game’s elite and he took a big step in that direction after ending a record-breaking week with a two-shot victory at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California.
Not only did the burly American become the first player ever on the PGA Tour to post scores no worse than 63 in each of the first three rounds but he earned a seal of approval from former U.S. president Bill Clinton after securing the win.
Midway through Reed’s post-victory news conference, he took a phone call from Clinton, a keen amateur golfer whose own charitable foundation officially linked up with the Humana Challenge in 2012.
“He was congratulating me, not only on a great win, but also told me to get myself back in that zone more often,” a smiling Reed told reporters when asked what the former U.S. president had said to him.
“He said it was a lot of fun to watch and ... how cool and calm and collected I was all week. And that’s key out here. You have to be. To hear that not only from others, but also hear it from the president, that’s special.”
Reed, who clinched his maiden PGA Tour victory at last year’s Wyndham Championship where he beat rookie sensation Jordan Spieth in a playoff, felt had proved himself among his peers with the high quality of his golf at La Quinta.
“I always play to try to prove to everybody that I belong out here, not only out here on the PGA Tour, but also with the best players in the world,” Reed said after following his three opening nine-under-par 63s with a closing 71.
“What I did this week with rattling off 63 three days in a row, and then being able to coast in with a victory, definitely shows that ... 63 three days in a row has never been done before.”
Though Reed had his commanding overnight lead of seven shots trimmed to just two during Sunday’s final round, he always felt he had enough wiggle room to hold on for victory.
“I started towards the end playing for par, just because I knew pars weren’t going to hurt me,” he said after mixing five birdies with four bogeys to post a 28-under total of 260.
”I had a five-shot lead or four-shot lead going into the back nine, so I knew someone was going to have to do something spectacular to catch me.
“To come out and not have my full game and to have that much of a cushion to be able to just coast in, that’s a good feeling. So I just coasted in, tried to make some pars.”
Reed safely parred the last three holes, surprisingly missing a birdie attempt from six feet at the par-three 17th, before he was embraced by his wife Justine on the edge of the 18th green.
Justine is expecting the couple’s first child, a baby girl, in May and has handed over her usual caddying duties for her husband to her brother, Kessler Karain, for the past two PGA Tour events.
“I can’t wait to be a dad and have a little girl running around at the golf course and whenever I come home have her run up, hanging out with dad,” said a beaming Reed, who earned $1.026 million for his second PGA Tour victory.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry