TROON, Scotland — It’s already been quite a road trip for Patrick Reed.
He’d love to return home with the claret jug.
Not long after arriving in Scotland, Reed learned he’ll get a chance to play in the Olympics. Then, he went out and shot 66 Thursday in the opening round of the British Open.
“I need to stick to my game plan,” Reed said after his 5-under score left him three shots behind fellow American Phil Mickelson. “I know it works.”
Until now, Reed is perhaps best known for his youthful boast two years ago that he already considered himself one of the top five players in the game. He added to his bad-boy reputation in the Ryder Cup, where he seemed to thrive on the heckling by European fans.
While he hasn’t exactly backed up that swagger, the 25-year-old was playing well enough to land a spot in the first Olympic golf competition since 1904, getting on the U.S. team when Dustin Johnson dropped out last weekend because of health concerns in Brazil.
Even so, Reed hasn’t made the same mark as other youthful Americans. Jordan Spieth already has two major titles. Rickie Fowler has a bunch of endorsements and no shortage of hype.
“I don’t mind flying underneath the radar,” Reed insisted. “Of course, if you’re playing well you want to be noticed.”
Reed has yet to win in 2016.
Royal Troon wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
“This year hasn’t been quite how I wanted it to be,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of top 10’s, but I don’t go to play golf tournaments to finish top 10. I try to go and win golf tournaments.”
Reed is playing in the Open for only the third time, but his familiarity with links golf goes back a lot farther than that. A decade ago, he got a chance to play in the Junior British Open.
He fell in love right away.
“Just watching the different shots that other players were hitting, I always thought it would be fun because I love to create shots and hit the funny things,” the Texan said. “At home, we can’t do that. It’s too soft. You can’t hit the stinger 2-iron and let it run, or the low hook chip shot and watch it bounce up a hill and kind of trickle over.”
Back in 2006, Reed not only got a chance to play links golf. He was also able to watch the big boys at Hoylake, where Tiger Woods romped to his second straight Open title on a fried-out course.
“It was scorching,” Reed remembered. “I don’t think Tiger really hit a driver. It was nothing but irons. To watch somebody hit an iron 320 or 330 yards, yet the ball is only flying 240, 230, and just watching it run, it just showed that it would probably be a pretty cool, pretty fun place to play to be able to do different things.”
Reed was on top of the leaderboard at Troon much of the day, sparked by an eagle at the third hole when he holed out a fairway shot from 139 yards. Mickelson surged in front late in the afternoon with a 63 — matching the best round in major tournament history.
By the time everyone had finished, there was an All-American look to the board, which is nothing new at Troon.
Defending Open champion Zach Johnson was among those at 67, joined by Justin Thomas, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley and Bill Horschel. The last six Opens held at the course in western Scotland have been won by U.S. players, going back to Arnold Palmer in 1962.
“I’ve heard that stat as well, but honestly with how competition is these days, it doesn’t really matter where you’re from or anything like that,” Reed said. “You have to be on your game, you have to stick to your game plan.”
Especially with stormy weather expected to move in Friday — a striking contrast to an opening round played in gorgeous conditions, the sun glistening off the Irish Sea, a light breeze barely rippling the flagsticks.
Reed didn’t sound too concerned.
“Whatever the wind or rain or if it’s cold or hot, it’s not really going to make a difference to me,” he said. “My game plan is to play to certain areas on each hole. I’m not really going to stray too far away from that.”