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Grind turns into back-nine nightmare for Reed at US Open

Patrick Reed loves the grind.

His back nine Saturday — too much of a good thing.

All the patience, scrambling and short game that put Reed in the lead at the U.S. Open disappeared over the back nine of the third round at Winged Foot. It was replaced by a two-hour barrage of missed fairways and terrible lies, all exacerbated by a putter that seemed to deteriorate by the minute.

Reed made six bogeys and a double over the back nine and shot 8-over-par 43 to finish his day at 7-over 77.

He fell from first place to a tie for 11th, and will head into Sunday with a score of 3-over 213, eight shots behind leader Matthew Wolff, who shot 65 to catapult to first after trailing Reed by four coming into the round.

“Well, I got all my bad shots out of the way,” Reed said when asked what he took from the round. “It was just one of those days. I couldn’t find a fairway, and from there, trying to guess out of the rough all day, it was just hard. It was brutal.”

Nine bad holes certainly won’t alter the narrative on Reed, the 2018 Masters champion. He believes he’s built to succeed when courses are set up the way Winged Foot is this week — with narrow fairways, high rough and difficult greens demanding the best from the best players.

And when the course toughened up Friday — more than 2 1/2 shots harder than it played in the first round Thursday — Reed wasn’t all that surprised that he was at the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend. “I love the grind,” he said before leaving the course with the sun setting Friday, on the heels of a 4-under 66.

A much different story come sunset Saturday. While Wolff (two fairways) and Bryson DeChambeau (three fairways en route to a 70 that left him two shots behind) both thrived out of the rough, the unpredictable lies wore down Reed.

“When you get in the really thick stuff, the ball seems to sit all the way to the bottom and then it’s just a hack out. My short game just could not save me today,” Reed said.

Over the first 45 holes, he missed 23 of 35 fairways but averaged 1.44 putts per hole and was still tied for the lead at 5 under. Over the last nine holes, Reed missed seven of eight fairways, and averaged 1.77 putts.

Over the first two rounds, he got up and down to save par 10 of 15 times. On Saturday he went: 1 for 9.

Included in his back-nine putting nightmare were a “two-putt” on No. 13, where he hit one from the front of the green all the way to the back fringe, then needed two to get down from there. (The putt from the fringe didn’t count in the official stats as a putt.) There were lip-outs on par putts on 14 and 16. And a missed 8-foot attempt at a par save on 17 that left him with hand on chin, staring down in disbelief.

“Just kind of one of those days that when I hit the quality good golf shot, it still ended up in a spot on the green that I had to be really defensive, couldn’t actually be aggressive with putting,” Reed said.

No player has come from more than four behind to win a U.S. Open since 1998. Given what happened Saturday, the odds are against Reed materializing as the one to end that streak. But he’s a grinder.

“Anyone in my position would be frustrated, especially with having the lead going into today,” he said. “The great thing is there’s always tomorrow, and like I said, it’s a U.S. Open.”

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