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Masters Victory Proves Patrick Reed Has a Game as Big as His Attitude

Tom Weir@@tomweirsportsFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2018

Patrick Reed didn't flinch in the final round while making the Masters his first major championship.
Patrick Reed didn't flinch in the final round while making the Masters his first major championship.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

In the oh-so-polite world of professional golf, just about everyone can be counted on to mind their manners, shake hands respectfully and tip their hats at all the appropriate moments.

And then there's Patrick Reed.

Make that Masters champion Patrick Reed, whose brashness and willingness to crawl under the skin of others is a conscious break from the gentlemanly behavior that permeates his sport.

Which is really good for golf—or at least should be.

The sport can use someone who chafes the competition and marches to his own rhythms, and that's Reed, who once finished second in a poll in which players named the fellow competitor they liked the least.

Even before he played in his first major, Reed announced to the world that he was one of the five best players on the planet, a boast he finally backed up while winning at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday.

In addition to pocketing $1.98 million, it's a safe bet that Reed also took some quirky pride in knowing his victory derailed storylines that would have been far more popular.

Like Jordan Spieth making the greatest final-round comeback in Masters history after starting the day nine strokes off the lead, an effort that fell apart with a bogey at 18. Like Rory McIlroy completing the career grand slam, an achievement thwarted by a slew of missed short putts on the front nine. Or like the crowd-pleasing and ever-colorful Rickie Fowler adding a green jacket to his neon wardrobe—only to fall one stroke short.

Maybe now Reed will join those guys as a marquee player and fan favorite. He's earned his "Captain America" nickname with spirited play for U.S. teams at the Ryder Cup and the Olympics. In an age when so many young golfers have gym-rat bodies, Reed is more of an average Joe, with a somewhat pudgy physique that doesn't exactly look like it was molded by a personal trainer. And shouldn't it be easy to root for someone who early in his pro career had his wife, Justine, as his caddy?

Justine Reed served as her husband's caddie until she became pregnant with their first child.
Justine Reed served as her husband's caddie until she became pregnant with their first child.Chris Carlson/Associated Press

But most importantly, he has attitude.

During Saturday's rainy third round, Reed broke out his umbrella from the 2016 Ryder Cup. That revived memories of his 2016 shootout with McIlroy, which Reed barely won in what was roundly celebrated as an instant classic. It was such a subtle move but also just in-your-face enough to the European players to make fans wish it had rained again Sunday, with Reed and McIlroy matched in the final pair.

Reed also famously shushed the Scottish fans at the 2014 Ryder Cup, holding a finger to his lips as he strutted off the green after sinking a birdie putt. He recreated the gesture later for a Golf Digest cover photo. 

Golf needs more of those moments—and more of that bravado.

Reed quiets the crowd at the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Reed quiets the crowd at the 2014 Ryder Cup.Peter Morrison/Associated Press

In retrospect, Reed wasn't that far off the mark when he declared himself one of the world's best. The boast came in 2014, when Reed, five months shy of his 24th birthday, became the youngest winner of a World Golf Championships event. That victory also made him only the fifth golfer to amass three titles in PGA tournaments before turning 24, joining Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, McIlroy and, of course, Tiger Woods.

"I just don't see a lot of guys that have done that, except for Tiger Woods, of course, and all the legends of the game...I believe in myself, and especially with how hard I've worked," Reed said at the time.

Then he repeated to NBC: "I'm one of the top five players in the world," adding, "To come out in a field like this and to win wire-to-wire like that, I just feel like I've proven myself."

But it took four more years for the now-27-year-old Reed to add the credential every golfer needs before claiming greatness: a major championship.

Reed won his in a workmanlike way, carefully grinding through a final-round 71 that makes him the latest 20-something player to demonstrate that, yes, the future of golf is secure regardless of what happens with Tiger.

He finished 15 under for the tournament and nearly became the first player in Masters history to shoot in the 60s for all four rounds.

That's heady stuff, especially for someone who had been a nonfactor in his previous four trips to Augusta. He missed the cut twice (with a combined score of 17 over) and didn't finish among the top 20 the other two times.

Reed celebrates with his caddy after sealing his win at Augusta on the 18th hole.
Reed celebrates with his caddy after sealing his win at Augusta on the 18th hole.Chris Carlson/Associated Press/Associated Press

It was easy to discount Reed at majors considering he had never had a top-10 finish in his first 15 tries prior to last summer.

But he ended that drought when he finished tied for second at the PGA Championship. With just a little luck there, he'd be working on back-to-back major championships. Having survived Sunday's pressure cooker with a minimum of drama and no serious flirtations with a meltdown, Reed now looks like someone who could be a constant contender in the major events.

He certainly was one at Augusta State (now Augusta University) while going 6-0 in match play and leading that small school to a pair of NCAA championships.

As Golf Digest pointed out, college golf also is where Reed's reputation was stained by some unproven allegations of cheating and worse. Given the fame he gained over the weekend, perhaps Reed will have to revisit some of those accusations and do some explaining.

More likely, he'll just ignore his detractors while holding a finger to his lips again—and continue to let his game speak for him.

   

Tom Weir covered several majors as a columnist for USA Today and covers the sporting landscape for Bleacher Report.

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