Golfing maverick Patrick Reed finally backs up the brash boasts
Masters champion outlines how reception on first tee added to his motivation
Rory McIlroy congratulates Patrick Reed after he won the 2018 Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters
Patrick Reed is presented with the Green Jacket by Sergio Garcia after his Masters victory in Augusta. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
A man of mystery, a maverick who doesn’t go with the herd, Patrick Reed – aka “Captain America”, a nickname given to him by his Ryder Cup team-mates for his passion on-course and in the team-room – joined the establishment as the 82nd Masters champion, his victory at Augusta National providing proof that he was right all along.
If a critical part of any player’s armoury is self-confidence, Reed – at 27 continuing the sequence of twenty-something winners that included Brooks Koepka (US Open), Jordan Spieth (The Open) and Justin Thomas (US PGA) – has gone into tournaments fully loaded and has never been shy about coming forward.
Call it ego; call it a heightened sense of self-worth, or even bravado. Whatever, it has proven to be an asset.
Two things happened prior to any shots were hit by the final pairing, two things he turned to his benefit as motivation.
Firstly, in watching the Golf Channel in his rented house on Sunday morning – Reed’s parents and sister, long since estranged, actually live in Augusta – one after one of the pundits all plumped for Rory McIlroy. The exception was Notah Begay. But Reed remembered and decided to use it. Secondly, his reception on the first tee was some degrees lower in the decibel level when compared to that of McIlroy’s.
Take his walk to the first tee on Sunday. Remember, this is a player who attended Augusta State University. Remember, this is a player who was the embodiment of the U-S-A’s passionate reclaiming of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in 2016. Yet, there was little or no comparison between the shouts given to Reed by those crammed around the first tee to the acclaim that greeted Rory McIlroy’s arrival shortly afterwards.
“When Rory walked up, his cheer was a little louder. But that just played into my hand. Not only did it fuel my fire a little bit, it [took] the pressure off me and back to him,” said Reed.
“I think the biggest thing going into Sunday, especially trying to win, for me trying to win my first [Major]; for him trying to win the career Grand Slam, it’s who is going to handle the pressure and who is going to have more pressure on them. Honestly, I felt like a lot of that pressure was kind of lifted and taken off me, some of them cheering more for Rory.
“And you had a lot of guys [on television] picking him to win over me, and it’s just kind of one of those things, that the more chatter you have in your ear and about expectations and everything, the harder it is to play golf. I went out there, just tried to play golf the best I could and tried to stay in the moment and not worry about anything else.”
In many ways, this breakthrough win provided vindication of Reed, for the way he has done things his own way.
At college, it was no plain ride. Originally on a golf scholarship to Georgia, he switched after one year to Augusta State. The reason for the move was never fully detailed, although a whispering campaign followed him even when he led his new college to back-to-back NCAA collegiate championships. On turning professional, he earned his tour card at the first attempt at 2012 Q-School.
In his rookie season, he won straight away. In the Wyndham Championship he defeated Spieth in a playoff – aged 23 years 13 days – and became the first player to win with his wife, Justine, as a a caddie since Steve Stricker won the 1996 BMW Championship.
On Sunday, his brother-in-law Kessler Karain, was on his bag. He assumed caddying responsibilities in 2014 when Reed and his wife were expecting their first child. That was the year, after his win in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, that he told one and all that truly he was a world top-five player.
“I don’t really regret anything I really say, I stand by my comments,” said Reed.
“I feel like I’ve played some golf that I need to play in order to get to where I want to be, and that’s to be the best golfer in the world; and the way you’re going to do that is perform in these big events and win these big events.
“I’m just happy to say I’ve gotten over that hump of not winning at all last year, coming into a year that one of my biggest goals was to win a Major and compete in golf tournaments. To be able to get them both at once, to end the drought and win a Major, it helps me mentally but it also helps my resumé and hopefully I can take this momentum going forward.”