You’ve got to hand it to him. When one golfer doesn’t much care for another golfer, which is pretty normal in any walk of life, what you tend to hear are hackneyed soundbites – “Hey, he’s a great champion”, “What he’s achieved in the game,” and so on.
Very few players rock the boat. Very few like to pop their head above the parapet. Very few tell it like it is.
It takes something or someone else to elicit this type of reaction from one of your peers.
“They (his college team-mates) all hate him – any guys that were on the team with him [at Georgia] hate him and that’s the same way at Augusta [State]. I don’t know that they’d piss on him if he was on fire, to tell you the truth.”
This wasn’t some low-level PGA Tour pro who was speaking for the rest of the tour, this was Kevin Kisner who was a Presidents Cup team-mate last year.
Kisner attended Georgia before Patrick Reed’s short stint there after accusations of cheating, stealing (a Rolex, a putter and $400 from his team-mates supposedly) and driving under the influence. He then transferred to Augusta State where he led them to back-to-back national titles.
Since then we’ve had all sorts to go at – the biggest ones being the top-five player declaration in 2014, something that is still strangely yet to happen, and all the Ryder Cup antics both historically and again this year when he did most of his talking when it had all finished.
Reed practises on his own, plays practice rounds on his own, isn’t part of any cosy cliques, doesn’t holiday nor share houses at majors and victories aren’t met by fellow players staying behind to spray him with some celebratory champagne.
But how much less entertaining would the game be without Reed? For all the negatives that have surrounded Reed even since his college days he might well emerge at the end of it all with more majors than the bulk of his more well-liked peers and more Ryder Cup points than anyone who has ever represented the United States. When he was asked recently whether his halo marked Captain America might have slipped a little after Paris he was quick to fire back: “No, still 3-0 in the singles.”
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For some there’s lots to like about Reed. Some of his on-course shtick is quite funny – the faux shushing in France when it was obviously a joke despite what some commentators think. He actually plays golf outside of the States albeit for likely huge sums of appearance fees and he looks as natural a chipper and putter as anyone throughout the game. Despite the huge work ethic, he’s supposed to be a phenomenal practiser, he makes the game look very easy.
He’s not your archetypal modern-day gym bunny who sends it miles out there but more a feel-type player who you could learn bundles from by watching him hit balls.
But, at this time of year when we all like to reflect on the year just gone, what he did at The Masters was astonishing on many levels.
We all fascinate over how Rory will cope with all that the year’s opening major throws up but it’s nothing in comparison to what Reed, rightly or wrongly, OK probably more rightly, has to deal with.
Here we had America’s ultimate Ryder Cup hero, the front-and-centre poster boy of Hazeltine, met with muted applause on both the 1st tee and 18th green. Nobody liked him, he couldn’t have cared less.
To pull this off under the biggest spotlight knowing all the patrons would most likely pull for someone he had heroically taken down in the previous Ryder Cup, when everyone couldn’t get enough of Reed, takes some kind of extraordinary mental strength.
Afterwards things got so lost with all the talk of his college, family and personality imperfections when the bottom line was quite how brilliant he was for four days. Well three days at least, on the fourth he just gritted it out better than anyone else.
His nearest challengers, in this order, were Fowler, Spieth, Rahm, McIlroy, Smith, Stenson, Watson, Leishman, Finau and DJ. And he beat the lot of them.
Of that 1st tee experience Reed said afterwards: “Not only did it fuel my fire a little bit, but also, it just takes the pressure off of me and adds it back to him. For him (Rory), 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 kind of taken off of me. The fans, yes, were cheering for me, but some of them were cheering more for Rory. At the same time, you had a lot of the guys picking him to win over me, and it’s just kind of one of those things that the more kind of chatter you have in your ear and about expectations and everything, the harder it is to play golf.”
He might have lost a Ryder Cup partner, and probably the remaining respect of his team-mates, but he also has a Green Jacket sitting there and you suspect he’s quite happy with the way 2018 has panned out.