(Reuters) - A year ago, Patrick Reed clinched his first title on the PGA Tour to spark a scintillating run of form that included two more victories on the U.S. circuit, but that maiden win remains the highlight of his career so far.
Despite having gone on to land one of the elite World Golf Championships events, the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in March, Reed will always hold very special memories of his breakthrough at the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina.
Simply being back at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro to defend his Wyndham title this week has given the 24-year-old American good reason to smile from ear to ear.
“It’s amazing, just the feeling coming back to a place where we won our first event, the support we’ve had ever since we’ve been here,” Reed told reporters while preparing for Thursday’s opening round.
“It really jump-started my career, that’s for sure. I played really well here, and being able to cap it off and win, it led to me being able to play very well for almost a full year in a row. Hopefully that will continue.”
With his wife Justine working as his caddie, Reed won last year’s title in sensational fashion, beating fellow American and rookie Jordan Spieth in a playoff after hitting a remarkable shot from a seemingly impossible position.
The Texan young gun had seemed destined for defeat after slicing his drive way right at the second extra hole, the par-four 10th at Sedgefield, and he initially feared it had gone out-of-bounds.
However his ball stopped barely one yard in bounds and he took advantage of that break by conjuring a magical second shot, threading a seven-iron that somehow avoided the trees and finished six feet from the hole to set up a birdie.
“It was so nasty and wet out here last year because of all that rain, and then to literally go from an all-time high to an all-time low, back to an all-time high ...,” Reed paused as he reflected on his roller-coaster playoff win.
“We hit the ball on 10, found out it was in play and then hit that shot with the seven-iron to six feet.”
Reed did not hesitate when asked to pinpoint a golfing highlight which stood out for him from the past 12 months.
“This one (the Wyndham Championship win), for sure,” said the Texan who, at 23, became the youngest winner of a WGC event with his victory at the Cadillac Championship in March.
“There is nothing like your first win, especially with your wife on the bag. This win will definitely be in my mind forever, that’s for sure.”
Reed, who on Sunday sealed an automatic spot as a rookie in the U.S. Ryder Cup team to take on Europe in September, has been grouped with two former Ryder Cup players, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker, in Thursday’s opening round.
Also competing this week is four-times major winner Ernie Els and 2011 FedExCup champion Bill Haas. Japan’s 18th-ranked Hideki Matsuyama is the only member of the world’s top 20 in the field.
Many players at the Wyndham Championship will have a double incentive to fare well as the event is the last stop in the regular season before the PGA Tour’s lucrative end-of-season finale gets under way next week.
Only the top 125 players after this week qualify for the first of the four FedExCup playoffs, the Aug. 21-24 Barclays tournament, and several players competing at Sedgefield are on the outside looking in.
South Korean Bae Sang-moon lies 126th in the FedExCup standings with Australian left-hander Greg Chalmers (128th), Swede David Lingmerth (129th) and 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis of the U.S. (131st).
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue