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Patrick Reed wins Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla

Patrick Reed won the Farmers Insurance Open by five strokes.
Patrick Reed, shown during a socially distanced trophy ceremony, shot 14 under to win the Farmers Insurance Open by five strokes.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Golfer puts third-round controversy behind him on the way to a five-stroke victory at Torrey Pines course.

Patrick Reed played nearly bogey-free golf in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 31.

Drama-free, too.

No rules issues — such as the controversial “embedded” ball incident that occurred on the 10th hole in the previous day’s third round — arose as Reed toured the South Course at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla with a 4-under-par 68 to deliver a five-shot Farmers victory.

“It was amazing,” said Reed, who became the first player since George Burns in 1987 to win the Farmers after leading after the first round. “It’s a true test out there. You have to be resilient when you’re out there playing because you could hit some quality golf shots and end up in the wrong spots, you’re having to grind and try to get up and down.”

Five players — Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Henrik Norlander, Ryan Palmer and Xander Schauffele — tied for second at 9-under.

None of them could mount a charge over the final nine holes to make things interesting. Along with other challengers such as third-round co-leader Carlos Ortiz, Sam Burns, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, they either spun their wheels or watched them come off.

It allowed Reed to cruise through the closing holes with eight straight pars before making an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 14-under 274 total.

Reed positioned himself for victory on the front nine — while others stumbled — with five straight pars before nailing a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5 sixth hole. A birdie at the par-4 seventh got him to 13 under and he was on his way toward the $1.35 million winner’s check.

Truth is, the real drama was removed two months ago when the Century Club of San Diego, the host organization for the tournament, announced that no fans would be allowed on the course because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Reed was pummeled on social media for the third-round incident, he was largely left alone in the final round at Torrey Pines. Whatever whispers there were among his peers were not audible, even on the quiet course.

In a normal year, perhaps 3,000 people would have been in the grandstands and along the rope line surrounding the green. This time, there were three dozen people, most of them media members.

Reed was allowed relief Jan. 30 for an “embedded” ball in the rough after an errant second shot from the sand on the 460-yard, par-4 10th hole.

At issue was whether Reed’s ball really was embedded. Only the golfer knows for sure because he picked up his ball before a rules official arrived. That’s acceptable, and Reed’s description of the situation was accepted by a rules official.

“The talk amongst the boys isn’t great, I guess” Schauffele said, “but he’s protected by the tour and that’s all that matters, I guess.”

While other Farmers champions would have enjoyed tremendous applause, here’s how it went for Reed:

A lone marshal clapped for him as he walked off the 18th tee box.

After his second shot, a man on a balcony at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines whistled, clapped and yelled, “Let’s go, Patrick.”

Two dozen people were on some Hilton balconies adjacent to where Reed hit his third shot.

“[Expletive] cheater,” one shouted. “Muff it.”

“Captain America,” yelled another, referring to a nickname the golfer earned during the Ryder Cup.

Reed tipped his cap.

“Cheaters prosper,” a woman then shouted.

No reaction.

As Reed arrived at the green, a marshal clapped politely before raising a “Keep calm” sign.

A handful of others clapped when his final putt dropped.

Immediately after his ninth PGA Tour win, Reed was asked about the “noise” and “criticism” that followed him off the course Jan. 30 and accompanied him when he returned to Torrey Pines the next morning.

“When I’m in tournament weeks I don’t ever look at anything,” said Reed, who did post an incident-related tweet.

“Going into today, I felt good, I felt confident and really went to the golf course, plugged in my headphones and just kind of got in my world with my coach and got to that first tee.”

Reed and Alex Noren were out front in the opening round Jan. 28 after collecting 8-under 64s on the North Course. Reed was a shot off the lead after two rounds and tied with Ortiz after three rounds.

“The golf course is hard,” Reed said. “I mean, you definitely know why it’s a U.S. Open venue and just kind of seeing it this week and seeing kind of how tough it played in certain conditions definitely shows how much harder it’s going to play once June comes around with a little firmer, faster greens and also with thicker rough.”

Ortiz fell out of the lead when he bogeyed the first hole and kept backing up from there. Seven more bogeys and a double bogey followed for a 6-over 78 that dropped him to a tie for 29th.

Hovland, the second-round leader, managed a 1-under 71, undone by three bogeys on the back nine. His bugaboo for the second straight round was the 14th hole, where he again put his second shot out of bounds for a one-stroke penalty.

Hovland managed to limit the damage to a bogey — he double-bogeyed the hole in the third round — but it dropped him two shots behind Reed and began a stretch of three bogeys in four holes.

“It’s so easy to just let things kind of slip away,” Hovland said.

Rahm, the 2017 Farmers winner and last year’s runner-up, seemed the most frustrated of those who failed to challenge in the final round.

He started the day one stroke off the lead, three-putted for bogey on the first hole and became more visually disturbed as the round progressed before finishing with a 72.

His frequent reaction during the day when a drive went offline or a putt missed the mark was to throw up his hands in disbelief.

Reed knows all about the game’s ups and downs. This week he enjoyed victory, even amid controversy.

“That’s why I love the game,” Reed said. “It throws punches at you, you throw punches at it and at the end of the day hopefully you’re the one standing.” ◆