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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Five Americans hope for a Slam glory

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Lahiri, Sock put on show at Barclays Tens, five Americans hope for a Slam glory

Madison, N.J. (AP) — Patrick Reed changed his national colors when he went with orange and yellow on his sneakers and his pants, paying tribute to India’s popular and colorful community.

Reed, who had struggled in the Ryder Cup, broke out of his scoring slump with a 7-under 65 Saturday for a two-shot lead over Li Haotong and overnight co-leader Thorbjorn Olesen. In an otherwise far from overpowering field at the $3.5 million Barclays World Golf Championships event, it was the first time a FedEx Cup playoff event had a two-way tie for the lead.

Reed was a late addition to the event after Thongchai Jaidee withdrew, perhaps because of visa issues.

Zach Johnson shot a 65 in the morning and was four shots behind. It was his best opening round since 2011, when he won the Barclays and began his PGA Tour career.

“With the days off, we tried to take advantage of it,” Johnson said. “If I was playing well, I should be happy. When I wasn’t playing well, I’d be angry.”

The Barclays is a half-dozen events that decide the world’s top 100 players on the PGA Tour. But there are few such things as a mini-Major these days, and the Barclays, which has 2,600 bunkers, is every bit as tough as a major.

The four Americans in the top 10 are most likely to get into the Tour Championship, where it’s all or nothing.

“Well, it’s been awhile, so I definitely feel that pressure,” Justin Thomas said. “As you can see by everyone’s scores, this is a difficult course. A lot of guys, whether they made the cut or not, are making a lot of birdies. But this is tough on Sunday, just like all our majors.”

From virtually across the Atlantic, players like Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson and Jon Rahm were doing the same thing in the World Golf Championships in China. They were a combined 24 under par.

But it was even cooler in New Jersey with the Tournament Players Club at Ridgewood overlooking the Hudson River and all its charm and majesty.

Every year, a team of volunteers wears little red or orange hats to show their allegiance. Some people even came to this tournament with cutouts of those hats. The flags for the U.S. and Japan weren’t nearly as popular, and it showed as half the course was done with its second round and the Americans trailed by 10 shots.

The U.S. used to rule the PGA Tour like no other. It had 58 tournaments that produced 18 of the 30 U.S. Ryder Cup victories and 18 majors. There were only five when it was a European event. But now, with two Tours and so many players from around the world, there’s not much more the Americans can do — unless they somehow get into the Ryder Cup in Paris.

In some ways, it has become a team event with the only Ryder Cup on offer being the FedEx Cup and the Vardon Trophy, awarded to the lowest adjusted scoring average over 72 holes.

Golf hasn’t had a player from outside the U.S. take the Vardon Trophy away from Sergio Garcia, when it came time to choose.

Keegan Bradley has the inside track, based on the year he won the PGA Championship to become the first U.S. player to end a victory drought of at least 50 weeks. Even with a lot of rest after the Ryder Cup and not playing since the Valspar Championship, he shot a 65 on Saturday for a four-shot lead and was closing in on taking home the Vardon Trophy.

Bradley and Johnson are looking to become the first players from outside the U.S. to win the Vardon Trophy.

Olesen has struggled the last few months, even though he showed enough in Shanghai to stay in contention.

“I would have been happy to finish second. I think I had a chance,” Olesen said. “To play two weeks in a row in Shanghai was great for my confidence, but I was a little bit disappointed.”

His next chance would be in The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club.

At least there were some good vibes around Ridgewood with U.S. President Donald Trump in town, although his two appearances this week were seen as more about promoting his son Eric Trump and an event he is hosting in Maryland later this month.

And if the golf is

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