For the third straight major championship in 2017, a PGA Tour player who played his college golf in Georgia has finished either outright second or shared runner-up honors.
Patrick Reed, who led Augusta State to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2010 and ’11, tied for second in the 2017 PGA Championship, continuing a streak started by former Georgia Bulldog Brian Harman in the U.S. Open and continued last month by Georgia Tech’s Matt Kuchar in the British Open.
Unlike Harman and Kuchar, Reed never held the lead during the final round of his major near-miss, matching the low score Sunday to move from five shots back after 54 holes to two off the lead at the finish.
Reed closed with a 67 and got as close as one shot behind eventual champion Justin Thomas after birdies at 14 and 15. That gave Reed seven birdies on the day, but he was unable to give himself another birdie opportunity on Quail Hollow’s demanding closing trio of holes – the “Green Mile.”
After managing pars on 16 and 17 with two putts from long range, Reed drove in the fairway bunker at the 18th and could not reach the lengthy par 4 in two, winding up with a bogey to finish at 6-under 278 in a tie with Francesco Molinari and Louis Ousthuizen, two behind Thomas, who also bogeyed the 18th protecting a 3-stroke lead.
It was the first career top 10 in a major for Reed, a fact repeated frequently during the weekend broadcasts of the PGA Championship. It was also the fifth time since 2015 that Reed has placed among the top 15 in a major, including a tie for 13th at last year’s PGA and a recent T13 in the U.S. Open.
Reed was tied for seventh going to final round, five behind ex-UGA golfer Kevin Kisner, who held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds. Reed worked his way into contention after an adventurous first seven holes hole that included just one par, that coming thanks to a sand save on the opening hole.
Over the next six holes, Reed recorded four birdies (3, 4, 6 and 7) along with two bogeys (2 and 5). Three of the birdies followed approach shots of between 170 and 230 yards, with the fourth coming on the par-5 seventh after Reed drove into a fairway bunker.
Reed’s first two-putt par came on the short par-4 eighth, where he could not get his second closer than 25 feet from 50 yards out. He had a birdie chance on 9 after another superb approach from outside 200 yards, and hit his second short from almost 300 yards to within 14 feet on the par-5 10th, but missed his eagle try.
Reed took advantage of the drivable par-4 14th and reachable par-5 15th to score his sixth and seventh birdies of the day, but his hopes for victory or at least a solo second ended when he just missed his par putt at the 18th.
After qualifying for the Tour Championship at East Lake in each of his first four seasons on the PGA Tour, Reed was in danger of missing out after almost dropping out of the top 100 in the FedExCup standings following an unproductive three-month stretch ending in late April. But he has gradually worked his way back up the points list since then, and jumped from 54 to 36 thanks to his runner-up finish in the PGA.
Reed, who recorded seven top-25 finishes in eight starts prior to a missed cut at the British Open, also has moved into the top 10 in the Presidents Cup standings, which would ensure him an of an automatic berth if he maintains that position. It would be his second selection to the team to go along with two Ryder Cup appearances.
The 27-year-old Reed won a tournament in each of his first four seasons on the PGA Tour, but is winless so far in 2016-17. The last of his five victories came last year in the Playoffs event in New York, and he will need a win in the Playoffs this year to continue his streak.
The most disappointed person to leave Quail Hollow on Sunday was Kisner, who held at least a share of the lead from the end of his first round until he hit his second shot on the par-5 seventh on Sunday into a pond bordering the green and made bogey.
Kisner, known as one of the most solid ball strikers on the PGA Tour, was done in by four errant long iron shots the final two days that resulted in two bogeys and two double bogeys.
Six birdies Thursday, including three on his final five holes earned him a share of the lead after the first day at 4-under 67 with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, who fell out of contention with a second round 78.
Kisner followed with another 67 Friday, beginning with three birdies on his first six holes before an eagle at the 7th (his 16th hole of the day) left him five shots clear of the players in his half of the field. Some favorable weather conditions later in the day enabled a number of players to challenge his lead, with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama pulling even with a 64.
Playing in the final group Saturday with Matsuyama and Jason Day, Kisner never yielded his lead, running off 11 pars on the first 12 holes along with a lone birdie at the seventh. He bogeyed the 13th to fall back to even par, but responded with birdies at 14 and 15 to regain control. For the week, Kisner played those two holes in 7-under , and he was 13-under on Quail Hollow’s five scoring holes – the three par 5s and two short par-4s.
But after playing the three holes that make up the Green Mile in 1-under the first two days, Kisner was 6-over on the trio for the weekend. His troubles began Saturday after he had gotten to 10-under with the back-to-back birdies. He pulled his second shot from the rough on 16 into the water and made double bogey, and hooked his second on 18 across the creek and did well to make bogey,
The double bogey at 16 and bogey at 18 left him with a 1-shot lead over Matsuyama and Chris Stroud heading to the final round, and Kisner remained in front with six straight pars to begin the day. Kisner lost his lead when he hit his second into the pond short and right of the seventh green before briefly regaining a tie for first with a birdie at the par-5 10th.
But Kisner drove in a fairway bunker at 11 and missed a 6-footer for par, and missed the green from the fairway at the 12th and made bogey after missing from 8½ feet for par. That dropped him three behind Thomas, who collected six birdies on the day with the combination of some strong play, a hot putter and a few fortuitous breaks.
Kisner, a dogged competitor going back to his days in Athens, came back with his sixth and seventh birdies of the week at 14 and 15 to close within one of Thomas. But he left himself almost a 100-foot birdie putt at the 16th and made bogey, and when Thomas birdied the difficult par-3 17th, Kisner’s deficit was again three.
Needing to hole out from the fairway at 18 to tie Thomas, Kisner hooked his second into the creek just left of the green and made double bogey, dropping him from a tie for second to a tie for seventh. He shot 74 the final day and finished at 4-under 280.
Both of Kisner’s second shots on 12 and 18 were influenced by having mud on his ball in the fairway. He said the one on the 12th hooked 30 yards, with the shot at 18 also going hard left after what he said was “probably my best swing of the day.”
Kisner also said that his putter let him down the final two days, when she shot 4-over as compared to 8-under the first two days.
“I didn’t make the putts on the weekend that I had been making the first two days. A lot of misses inside ten feet, and at some point length is going to catch up with me. I had every opportunity and I just didn’t finish it off.”
Kisner was particularly peeved with his second shot at the seventh, which cost him the lead at the time.
“Number seven is going to haunt me,” said Kisner, who offered that he “got too greedy with the shot” and came up short in the water.
“That’s one of the holes I have to make 4 on to compete. To walk away with 6 was painful.”
Both Kuchar and Harman followed up their runner-up finishes in majors earlier this summer with solid showings in the PGA. Kuchar shot a final round 68 at Quail Hollow to tie for ninth at 283 after finishes of fourth (Masters), 16th (U.S. Open) and second (British Open). He shot in the 60s in the final round of all four.
Harman, who was second in the U.S. Open, tied for 13th at 284 after a 69 Sunday that included six birdies, three on the final five holes. He was 2-under on the Green Mile the last two rounds with birdies on 17 both days after taking bogey on 17 and 18 Thursday and Friday. Harman collected his second PGA Tour win in May at Wilmington, N.C., on the course that took over for Quail Hollow this year as the host of the Wells Fargo Championship.