There’s always been a bit of irony in the fact that Red, White and Blue loving Patrick Reed—a.k.a. Captain America as he’s goes by each year when the U.S. is playing in a team competition—is one of the few players with a USA passport who also is a card-carrying member of the European Tour. Becoming eligible for membership with his win at the 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship and after his memorable debut in the Ryder Cup that fall in Gleneagles, Reed did what few of his countryman do and accepted his card. Even more impressive, he’s worked to keep his membership on the Old World tour ever since.
All of this is a long way of saying it’s no shock that Reed is playing in this week’s European Tour finale in Dubai rather than teeing it up at the PGA Tour’s final fall event, the RSM Classic. And if the 27-year-old was going to fly halfway around the world, he might as well make it worth his while—like post a seven-under 65 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to take a one-stroke lead over Justin Rose and Scott Hend at the DP World Tour Championship.
After feeling back pain on the practice tee and wondering what the day might bring, Reed birdied his first two holes. Still, he was just two under through the front nine until finally finding a groove, making five birdies, including three on his final four holes, to post the lowest opening-round score on any tour in 2017.
“I felt yesterday I put in a lot of good work,” Reed said. “I felt like the swing was right where it needed to be.”
A solid week overseas could help offset what, by Reed’s standards, has been a so-so 2017. He failed to win a tournament for the first time in five seasons, his best showing a runner-up at the PGA Championship, while posting just four top-10s in 29 starts. Thus far in the fall portion of the 2017-’18 PGA Tour season, he’s made three starts with a T-11 finish at the CJ Cup and a missed cut last week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Reed has previously played the Euro Tour’s finale at just once before, carding a T-10 finish in 2015. This season, to satisfy his tour membership requirement of four non-major and WGC events, he played in the UBS Hong Kong Open (T-43) last December, the Scottish Open (MC) and the European Open (T-19) in July with this week being No. 4.
Reed entered the event No. 31 on the Race to Dubai points list, with no chance of passing the leader Tommy Fleetwood for the top honor even with a win. The Englishman entered the week with a 73 percent chance of claiming the year-long prize, but he didn’t help his cause on Thursday when he shot a one-over 73 to end the day tied for 46th in the 60-player field.
In contrast, Rose, No. 2 on the points list, continued the fine form that saw him win his previous two European Tour starts, shooting a six-under 66. The former U.S. Open champ started slow, but was five under on the back nine, including a nifty holed bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 14th and a birdie on the par-5 18th.