Reed, Laird share early lead at Barclays

Patrick Reed (David Cannon/ Getty Images)

FARMINGDALE, N.Y.  Patrick Reed didn’t break anything Thursday except par.

Two days after Reed broke the gavel during the ceremonial closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, the American kept a clean card and shot 5-under 66 to share the lead with Martin Laird at The Barclays.

Reed was dressed in a blue blazer with an American tie when he was asked to bang the gavel three times at the stock exchange closing on Tuesday. On the third hit, the top of the gavel flew off into the crowd, and Reed later made a joke at his own expense on Twitter.

“They told me to give it 3 good hits, so I did!” he tweeted.

He was much better with a golf club in hand at Bethpage Black, running off three birdies and an eagle on the front nine to close out his 66.

The start of the FedEx Cup playoffs, with a $10 million bonus waiting at the end, was more about a cup that doesn’t pay a dime. A dozen or so Americans are still in the mix to make the Ryder Cup team. Qualifying ends after this week for the top eight, and then Davis Love III has four captain’s picks over the next month.

Reed is winless this year and holding down the No. 8 position in the Ryder Cup standings.

“Of course it’s on my mind,” Reed said. “But really at the end of the day, it’s just trying to get better and play this tournament. Because if I play well, that means those other guys are going to have to play even better to try to catch me.”

Reed and Laird, who also played bogey-free, were one shot ahead of three other Ryder Cup hopefuls – Rickie Fowler, Kevin Chappell and J.B. Holmes, whose 67 was the best score among those who played in stronger wind in the afternoon. Defending champion Jason Day, the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, was among those at 68.

Of the 18 players who broke 70, five played late.

Chappell likely would have to win The Barclays to make the team, while Fowler needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to have a mathematical chance. Fowler went from Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics to North Carolina for the Wyndham Championship to help his cause, but only tied for 22nd.

“That’s the No. 1 priority coming into the year,” Fowler said. “I’d say that’s always one of the main goals coming into a Ryder Cup year. Even in the off year, you’re thinking about it. That was the whole reason playing last week, trying to get more points. It would be nice to have a chance to make that team without having to get picked.”

Holmes dropped to No. 9 last week. He has made his points mainly through the majors – a tie for fourth at the Masters, third at the British Open – but as he got closer to making the team, the pressure has increased. He has missed the cut in his last three events, and he couldn’t afford another one.

He spent two hours on the putting green looking for a solution, and might have found it.

“It was really good,” he said. “Had to stay calm today and tried to let go of the results,” Holmes said.

Laird is only interested in the FedEx Cup.

The Barclays is the start of a four-tournament series in which the field size shrinks until 30 qualify for the finale at the Tour Championship. Laird started at No. 89, and with only the top 100 in the standings advancing, starting well was crucial.

He also played bogey-free at Bethpage Black on a warm day with the wind picking up late in the morning as he was making the turn.

U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, the No. 2 seed in the FedEx Cup, recovered from a bogey-bogey start to post a 70, while Adam Scott (No. 3) shot 69.

Abbotsford, B.C., native Adam Hadwin trails Scott by one stroke in a tie for 20th following a first-round 1-under 70. Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., recorded a 73, while David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., closes out the Canadian contingent at 75.

Jordan Spieth played for the first time since the PGA Championship and didn’t feel much rust as he made three birdies in seven holes. Bethpage is relentless, and so was the wind, and when the Texan struggled to find fairways, he started dropping shots. Spieth wound up with a 71.

“It’s up there in the top few toughest courses I’ve ever played,” Spieth said. “If they made the greens firm today, it would have been unplayable on a few holes. It was very tough, challenging, but fair today. We just had it really, really tough in the afternoon with those winds so high.”

Henrik Stenson (right knee) and Brett Stegmaier (wrist) withdrew, dropping the field to 119 out of 125 players. Stenson is No. 14 in the FedEx Cup and was always planning to skip one playoff event. Stegmaier is No. 101, so his season is over. … Russell Knox, battling bad congestion, opened with a 73. The Scot is hopeful of being a captain’s pick for Europe’s team. Darren Clarke makes three selections on Tuesday. Graeme McDowell opened with a 72, while Luke Donald had a 69.