Playing over a pond as still as the plastic swans PGA West uses to scare away geese, Reed birdied his final hole on the Nicklaus Private Course, hitting a wedge to 2 feet on the par-4 ninth. He also had an eagle, eight birdies and a bogey.
"Any time you set a record on the PGA Tour it means you're doing something right," Reed said. "Well, a lot of things right. But at the same time it doesn't matter if you have the 54-hole lead. All that matters at the end is at the end of Sunday."
The 23-year-old Reed broke the mark of 25 under set by Gay Brewer in the 1967 Pensacola Open and matched by Ernie Els in the 2003 Tournament of Champions, Steve Stricker in the 2010 John Deere Classic and Pat Perez in the 2009 La Quinta event. Reed was one off Stricker's stroke record of 188 set on a par-71 course.
"Almost seems like I'm in a putting coma," said Reed, the first player in tour history to open an event with three rounds of 63 or better. "The hole seems huge. It almost feels like I can't miss. It's interesting because when I do miss a putt, I get really frustrated because I almost feel like I should make it."
The Wyndham Championship winner in August, Reed opened Thursday on the Arnold Palmer Private Course and played La Quinta Country Club on Friday. He has played the 11 par 5s in 11 under, the 28 par 4s in 12 under and the 13 par 3s in 4 under.
Charley Hoffman and Brendon Todd were tied for second. Hoffman, the 2007 winner, had a 66 on the Palmer course the site of the final round.
Todd shot 68 at La Quinta.
In Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii, Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples broke away with birdies on the 17th to top the leaderboard going into Sunday's final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.
Facing benign conditions for the 35th season opener for the Champions Tour, Langer shot an 8-under 64 to get to 14 under for the tournament. Couples caught him with his second straight 65.
Mark O'Meara was just one stroke back of the leaders. O'Meara was 7 under after seven holes and finished with a 65.
Patrick Reed -27
Charley Hoffman -20
Brendon Todd -20
James Driscoll -19
Bill Haas -18
Justin Leonard -18
Daniel Summerhays -10