He parred the first before going on a freakish run of six holes without a par, picking up birdies at the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 7th to go with dropped shots at the 3rd and 6th.
But that was child's play compared to this birdie at the par-4 15th.
Reed posted a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 and is two strokes ahead of Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State in breezy conditions at Sheshan International Golf Club http://www.sheshangolf.com/en/ in Shanghai, China.
"There's 18 more holes to play and it's a world class field. It was possibly an eight-under round with the chances that I had", said the world number three.
Brooks Koepka, in his debut at No. 1 in the world, didn't deliver much excitement.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow", Finau, the American Ryder Cup player, told the European Tour's website after closing his round of 70 with three birdies. He missed a 15-foot eagle attempt on the last hole.
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His double bogey on the 17th hole sent him from a two-shot lead to a one-shot deficit, and then he compounded it with another mistake on the 18th.
Reed, whose comments were chief among the recriminations in the U.S. camp after their 17.5 to 10.5 loss at Le Golf National, had alleged that Spieth refused to play with him.
The Masters champion looked certain to drop another shot on the par-5 18th when his tee shot bounded off the side of a hill and into the water. In his opening fourballs match with Brooks Koepka, the US team looked to be in big trouble until Finau's tee shot on the 16th hole hit off the railroad ties framing the green and settled 3 feet away, crucial to winning the match.
McIlroy also was wild at times off the tee, though it really only cost him on the short 16th hole.
This was Finau's first tournament of the season and like a year ago, he went home with a second-place finish. But he couldn't quite hold on for what would have been his second PGA Tour victory, and certainly his biggest, after winning the Puerto Rico Open in 2016. Last year, he finished second at the Safeway Open in California to get his season off to a strong start.