AUGUSTA, GA. – Two kinds of people bug pro golfers: the dunderheads who scream “Get in the hole!” on the tee of a par-5, and those named Patrick Reed.
Reed is the 23-year-old Texan who got himself kicked off the University of Georgia golf team and, at an age when most players on the PGA Tour are happy to kiss rings and make cuts, declared himself a “top five” player in the world.
Reed wears red on Sundays to honor and imitate his idol, Tiger Woods, but he could wear periwinkle blue and make his peers see scarlet. When he declared before the final round at Doral that he was a top-five player, pros such as Stuart Appleby fired back on Twitter, telling him that winning on tour wasn’t as easy as Reed presumed.
Here’s the interesting thing about Reed: the more he angers other players, the more he beats them.
After bragging about himself at Doral, he went out and won. He has won three times on tour since August, twice beating elite fields. And after his partying and arrogance landed him at Augusta (Ga.) State, he led the Jaguars to two NCAA titles.
Asked this week how often doubt creeps into his mind, Reed said, “Not very often.”
Asked about the reaction to his “top five” comment, Reed said, “I heard a lot of positive things. Michael Jordan had nothing bad to say about it. Gary Player, Henrik Stenson. You have all of these top athletes who don’t have a problem with it.
“You know, you have to feel and believe in yourself to be successful, and that’s all it is. I believe in myself and I will hopefully continue playing well and get to that point.”
Reed ranks 23rd in the world. He will tee off Thursday in a group with fellow phenom Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. “Yeah, there’s going to be no top-five players in that group,” McIlroy said.
That was humorous and correct. McIlroy ranks ninth and Spieth 13th.
What’s funny about the reaction of Appleby and other players to Reed is that most of the greats of the game viewed confidence as a 15th club. Jack Nicklaus has become golf’s sage ambassador, but in his prime he reveled in intimidating competitors with his prodigious length and below-wind-chill glare. Ben Hogan sneered his way to major titles.
It’s easy to forget, but Woods once drew the same reactions as Reed. Fellow pros hated the attention he got, hated his presumptuous pursuit of Nicklaus … until Woods started winning majors and increasing purses.
For too many players, the PGA Tour is a rolling ATM. Players such as Reed view the tour as the vault where they keep all the pretty trophies.
“When I was real young, all I ever dreamed about was playing at Augusta for a green jacket,” he said.
Reed played at Augusta National when he attended college in Augusta, and he’s attended the Masters before as a “patron,” so he doesn’t worry that only one Masters rookie — Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 — has won the tournament since 1935.
Winning the Masters usually requires course knowledge — understanding where not to hit the ball.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve played here once or if you’ve played here 50 times,” Reed said. “When it comes down to it, it’s just going to be one of those things that whoever is playing the best is going to walk away with the trophy.”
If Reed could take one mulligan, he would. Looking in the rear-view mirror, he wished he could do it all over again.
Oh, he wouldn’t take back his “top five” comment. But he would like to drive down famed Magnolia Lane into Augusta National again. You can do that for the first time only once.
“Oh, it was amazing, that’s for sure,” he said. “I wanted to reverse and do it again, but I had to keep going so I could get out there and practice.”
He has got work to do. With Woods missing the Masters because of back surgery, golf needs another player who is bold enough to wear red on Sundays, and a target every day.