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SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – The question stumped Patrick Reed and he asked for it to be repeated.
Or maybe he was simply stunned that after shooting a second-round 65 to move into contention Friday at the PGA Championship, someone was asking him about his cockiness.
Reed's self-assurance is well known throughout golf. Why it would be a topic following several enthusiastic answers about his upcoming Olympic participation, and some insightful thoughts on how Baltusrol played in the second round, was somewhat difficult to fathom.
But Reed scrambled — something not required much in his seven-birdie performance that placed him at 5-under 135.
Asked about believing in himself as a "top-three player," Reed seemed somewhat amused.
"I appreciate you saying top three, because I said top five," he said. "And I appreciate you calling me cocky, as well. I don't really know how to take that one.
"You have to believe in yourself. If there was not a mic around and you went out and asked every single guy, and if they knew you weren't media and ... asked every single guy where do you want to be, they are going to say No. 1 in the world. And if they don't, then those guys also aren't winning every week or even having a chance to win golf tournaments because they are not believing in themselves.
"But really at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, yeah, I believe in myself. I play golf. I am who I am. ... I'm not writing the articles. It comes down to how you all portray me, not how I portray myself, because I didn't write the article. There's been some I fixed and some that are true and I like the articles.
"But at the end of the day, all I can do is play golf and be who I am, and hopefully I'll write the good ones."
Reed has written an impressive story since becoming a PGA Tour regular in 2013. He's won four times, including becoming the youngest player to take a World Golf Championship by winning at Doral in 2014. He also won the 2015 Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. His 3-0-1 showing at the 2014 Ryder Cup was the strongest and most forceful of any American.
Yet because he hasn't won this year — he has two runner-up finishes and ranks 14th in the world — his confident attitude gets questioned.
Reed also was asked why he hadn't elevated his game to match "guys your age?"
"I'm playing great, I have a lot of top-10s," he responded emphatically. "I've just had my best finish at a major so far (tied for 12th at the British Open) and I've only been on the tour for three years. Everyone acts like I've been on tour for 15, 20 years. I'm only 25."
Reed always brightens when asked about representing his country. He actively sought a spot on the U.S. team for Rio, something he got when Dustin Johnson pulled out. Reed was in the middle of a round at the Scottish Open, where he finished tied for 10th, when Johnson withdrew.
After discussing the options with his "team," Reed and his wife, Justine, basically said, "Let's go."
"I can't wait," he said. "It's one of those things that just talking about it kind of gives me goosebumps, because going over there, wearing the stars and stripes, playing again, it's going to be great."
His 65 Friday was the best morning round and matched Jimmy Walker's opening score. Reed shot it after an overnight change of driver. In his first round, Reed was happy with his iron play and his putting.
"But I couldn't keep a driver on the planet," he said. "So I switched to my old driver and went and hit the driver better. The difference between a top-10 and a win out on tour is if you hit fairways, you'll hit greens, and those 50-50 putts, you're always on the right side of them."
One putt that definitely wasn't a 50-50 proposition came on the ninth, Reed's final hole. He hit a 6-iron to the par-3, but couldn't tell how close it was to the hole.
"So I just thought it might have been on the green because not a single person clapped," he said with a chuckle. "So I walk up there and I realize it's a foot (from the pin). I was just like, OK, I guess the rest of the field has been hitting it inside a foot all day. Didn't get a single clap, and it's in there tight."