Patrick Reed’s 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open was extended to three strokes early in Saturday’s third round, with two birdies on the first four holes.
The free fall was both disastrous and spectacular, however, sending the 2018 Masters champion tumbling down the leaderboard throughout the treacherous back nine at Winged Foot.
Though powerful playing partner Bryson DeChambeau flourished to close within two strokes of leader Matthew Wolff, Reed carded six bogeys, one double-bogey and just two pars on the final nine holes to finish with a 7-over 77.
“Well, I got all my bad shots out of the way,” Reed said afterward. “It was just one of those days. I couldn’t find a fairway, and from there trying to get out of the rough all day, it was just hard. It was brutal.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to guess correctly and, at the same time, wasn’t able to put the ball in the right spots.”
The 30-year-old Reed crashed from a 4-under score through two rounds to 3-under for the tournament, eight strokes behind Wolff in a tie for 11th with six others.
A crack at his second major title appears to be extremely unlikely without a strong reversal performance and most of the leaderboard flailing on the unforgiving par-70 track, like Reed did Saturday in hitting just 3 of 14 fairways and 9 of 18 greens in regulation.
“You’re definitely going to need some help, at the end of the day, it’s a long shot,” Reed said. “But you saw how fast it can go the wrong direction. You get just a little off around here, you can make some numbers.
“If I go out and shoot a really low one and finally hit some fairways, hit some greens and make some putts, you never know. It’s a Sunday at a major. The guy that’s in the lead is a great golfer, and all the guys here are. It’s just one of those things that you just never know.”
Still, Reed’s frustration was impossible to hide as his drives continually landed in the hairy rough and his round continued to unravel on the back nine.
“I mean, anyone in my position would be frustrated, especially with having the lead going into today,” said Reed, who carded a hole-in-one during Thursday’s first round. “The great thing is there’s always tomorrow, and like I said, it’s a U.S. Open.
“Even though eight shots seems like a lot, a lot of times you go out there, you make a birdie, the [leader] makes a bogey, gets himself in some trouble, that’s a two-shot swing quickly. It’s one of those things that even though I’m eight shots back, if I go out and play a really solid round [Sunday], you never know.”