Patrick Reed, the cherubic young winner of three titles since August, has already learned how quickly the tide can turn on the PGA Tour.
He has the unique opportunity to change his public image substantially if he can pull out a win at the Zurich Classic in a humble manner. (See Matt Kuchar.)
While he should be known for his precocious ability to win tournaments, he instead became infamous for making self-aggrandizing statements at a press conference after winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship:
I just don't see a lot of guys that have done that, besides Tiger Woods, of course, and all of the other legends of the game. It’s just one of those things that I believe in myself -- especially after how hard I've worked -- that I'm one of the top five players in the world. To come out of a field like this and to hold on wire-to-wire like that, I feel like I've proven myself.
When he made his proclamation, the golf world groaned and sportswriters polished their keyboards in expectation of Reed's fall from grace. The resulting clunk you heard was Reed tying for 52nd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, missing the cut at the Masters and tying for 48th at the RBC Heritage.
Reed just hasn't been in a groove, and no stat is more illuminating than the fact that he hasn't broken 70 since winning at Doral—all the way back in March.
It’s possible that karma reared its ugly head after Reed’s statement of self-importance. But he’s young enough and good enough to turn fate back his way. There is no reason, given his talent and confidence, that he shouldn’t win many tournaments down the road.
Let’s face it. To win at a high level, one has to have an abundance of confidence, and Reed’s was based on being a proven winner in a very short period of time. In fact, he was the youngest World Golf Championships winner ever, and he beat some of the biggest names in the game.
Who wouldn’t be proud of such an accomplishment?
He now ranks fourth on the FedEx Cup points list and 25th in the official world golf ranking.
That’s not quite the top five, but it is pretty darn good for a relatively new player on tour. Ironically, the closest he has gotten to the top five is when he hit a boat at the RBC Heritage Open named—you guessed it—"Top Five."
He had an excellent opportunity to live up to his own hype when he was paired with age-group peers Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth at the Masters. Spieth is ranked seventh in the world, and McIlroy is ranked 10th.
Reed began the tournament nicely with a 71 but then ballooned to a second-day 79, which resulted in a missed cut. He soon discovered that it is one thing to win the Humana Challenge and quite another to make it to moving day at Augusta.
In his inaugural debut at the Masters, he had 10 bogeys on Friday, including three on the last three holes. He missed the cut by four strokes.
So, while 21-year-old PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth was in the final group with subsequent winner Bubba Watson, Reed was riding the couch at home and watching the tournament on TV.
He can learn from the younger, more polished Spieth not only about how to play Amen Corner but also about how to be a gracious winner. To paraphrase the great Nike slogan, "Just shut up and do it."
Confidence is good. In fact, it is essential if you are going to contend with ultra-competitive fields in pro golf today. What’s more, it is refreshing to hear someone say what he is thinking after a big win. Maybe Reed was acting like an overexcited kid when he talked about being one of the best players in the world.
The hard part is blending confidence with humility. Even the supremely confident Tiger Woods never acted like Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest self-promoter in sports history, when he won. And Woods won a lot more than Reed could ever dream of.
If Reed wins this weekend, albeit in a somewhat diluted field, he will have more than half the wins of 14-year tour veteran Kuchar.
The Zurich Classic should create an excellent opportunity for that win, as few of the best players are in the field.
Reed's fourth win would not only help him regain some of his early momentum but also lend credence to his claims that he is one of the elite golfers in the world.