(Reuters) – FedExCup points leader Patrick Reed maintained his run of red-hot form as he moved into contention for the Deutsche Bank Championship in Massachusetts on Friday, despite suffering putting woes on his back nine.
The burly American, fresh from victory at The Barclays on Sunday when he also locked up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, fired a three-under-par 68 at the TPC Boston in Norton to finish two strokes behind early leaders Paul Casey and Fabian Gomez.
Englishman Casey, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2009 Houston Open, birdied six of his last nine holes to finish level with Argentina’s Gomez, who covered his homeward nine in a sparkling four-under.
Reed was delighted with his form from tee to green in the second of the PGA Tour’s four lucrative playoff events, but was left scratching his head after his putting on the back nine.
“That first nine, I made the putts I was supposed to make and then all of a sudden I went to the back nine and I missed a short one on one for birdie, a short one on two for birdie and a short one on three for par,” Reed, 26, told reporters.
“I bogeyed a driveable hole, four, which is absurd, then I missed short birdie putt on five, a short birdie putt on six, chipped in on seven, I felt like I had a pretty good look on nine but I missed.
“It was just one of those nines where you’re hitting the ball pretty solid, you’re just not quite making putts.”
Reed’s 68 was matched by Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose, British Open champion Henrik Stenson and U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson among others.
Australian world number one Jason Day opened with a 70 while third-ranked American Jordan Spieth was among the late starters on Friday.
Casey was placed 59th in the FedExCup standings heading into this week’s event but said he was much more focused on the quality of his play at the TPC Boston.
“There are guys who get caught up in it (FedExCup points) and get worried, and it can affect performance,” the 39-year-old said. “My big thing is I’ve got to have a good week.
“I’ve been to the Tour Championship before and you just want to be there in the top five and control your own destiny. This is a great start here, hopefully I can finish off this week and try and move up there as much as I can.”
The top 70 players on the FedExCup points list after the Deutsche Bank advance to the Sep. 8-11 BMW Championship in Carmel, Indiana where the leading 30 will qualify for the Tour Championship finale in Atlanta two weeks later.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)