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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Patrick Reed battles past 'really awful' back pain to lead DP World Tour Championship

American shot a flawless 7-under par 65 to lead the tournament by one shot from Race to Dubai contender Rose and Australian Hend.

Patrick Reed, right, walks down the 18th during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Patrick Reed, right, walks down the 18th during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

Patrick Reed arrived in Dubai late Tuesday and got in some decent practice on Wednesday, but woke up on Thursday with a “really awful” pain in his back. Then he went out and posted the lowest score of the day at the DP World Tour Championship.

The American, best known for his Ryder Cup resolve, displayed another sort of mettle at the Earth course during his first round to open his account with a flawless 65.

Reed had initially felt in fine fettle having worked hard with his coach following last week’s missed cut in Mexico, but when the alarm went off to signal the start to his Dubai day, he discovered a stab in his back, not far from his shoulder.

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Thus, he struggled on the range pre-round, but proceeded to shoot his best tally in five attempts around Jumeirah Golf Estates. It was not all of his own making, though.

“Yeah, the warm-up wasn't how I wanted to be,” Reed said. “I was kind of spraying it, and then my caddie just looked at me and reminded me, ‘hey, you're a gamer, not a range guy’. Let's get off to a good start, hit some fairways and hit some greens."

So Reed simply went out and did that. He opened with two birdies, before a run of seven straight pars was snapped by a birdie on 10. He added another four on the way in, including one on each of the final two holes.

It carried Reed to 7-under par and gave him a one-stroke lead going into Round 2, with Race to Dubai challenger Justin Rose and Australian Scott Hend his closest challengers. Seventeen others are within four shots, a pack highlighted by DP World defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick, on 4-under.

Fiercely patriotic, Reed is something of anomaly this week, one of only four flying the Stars and Stripes in the 60-man field. To be fair, Reed has always embraced the challenge of being a global player, and his appearance in Dubai - "an easy decision" - was locked in given he needed to contest another event on the European Tour to retain his playing rights for 2018. He actually believed it to be more.

“I was lucky, I thought I needed two since I didn't know Presidents Cup counted as one event,” Reed said of the current criteria, which changes next year. “It was nice enough to find out Presidents Cup counted and this is the only one I needed.”

It could be argued he needs a win, too. Reed has yet to land a title this season, with his best finish tied-second at the US PGA Championship in August. It came 12 months after his most recent success, at the 2016 Barclays on the PGA Tour.

Concluding the European circuit with some hardware would therefore be very welcome, although it is not the be all and end all.

“It's important, but really the biggest thing for me is just improving my golf swing, improve around the greens and improve in all areas," Reed said. "Hit the ball well, putt well."

He did that on Thursday, despite the travel and the aching back. In fact, it could have been even better.

“Still feel like I left two or three out there,” Reed said. “But all in all, it's a great start.”

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