He's one of the least popular players on the professional circuit. But what is it, asks Alex Perry, that makes Patrick Reed so unlikeable?
A secret survey of PGA Tour players by ESPN a few years ago asked which fellow pro would you not help if you saw them in a fight. Patrick Reed was one of four players named by the 100 or so polled. Bubba Watson, Rory Sabbatini and Robert Allenby were the others.
Meanwhile, the Texan is consistently included in listicles with titles such as “the most hated sportsmen in the world”.
My own experience of Reed was at the 2015 Open at St Andrews, Reed was practising alone. No-one, apart from his caddie, within 300 yards of him.
But can’t people seem to warm to Reed? Shall we do this chronologically? Let’s go…
His questionable college career
Perhaps an explanation as to why he isn’t well liked among his peers, Reed’s college career was littered with accusations and have been written about at length by the likes of Golf Digest contributor Shane Ryan.
Ryan suggests in his book, Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour, that Reed was ousted from the University of Georgia for cheating during a qualifying round, recording incorrect scores in his favour, and stealing from team-mates. (Cash and putters, if you’re interested.)
Despite a coach at UGA releasing a statement backing Ryan’s claims, Reed denied the claims and said he was kicked out for multiple arrests for being drunk and disorderly.
Reed then transferred to Augusta State, where his new team-mates also suspected him of recording lower scores than he’d actually shot.
It is also rumoured that the ASU players, ahead of the NCAA Championship final, told Georgia rival Harris English that they hoped he would beat Reed. The title came down to that match, and Reed edged it 2&1.
His infamous top-five comment
“I have three wins on the PGA Tour – I truly believe that I am a top-five player in the world.”
Patrick Reed had just won the 2014 World Golf Championship at Doral and was giving his having his post-tournament interview.
A bit brash, perhaps. A bit overly confident. But there’s nothing wrong with either of those traits.
But then it took a strange turn.
“I don’t see a lot of guys that have done that besides Tiger Woods and the legends of the game. I believe in myself, especially with how hard I’ve worked. I’m one of the top five players in the world. I feel like I’ve proven myself.”
Of course he missed five of his next eight cuts as this extraordinary interview came back to immediately bite him square on the cheeks.
Incidentally, that win moved Reed to 20th in the world. In the five years since, he has spent roughly 15 weeks inside the top 10, including a career-high 7th. He broke his major duck at The Masters in April, a victory that moved him up to No. 11 and he ended the PGA Tour season as the World No. 15.
He’s made a good career for himself since then, winning twice more on the PGA Tour and playing in three Ryder Cups.
Speaking of which…
His Ryder Cup antics
Reed was the USA’s shining light in Europe’s crushing Ryder Cup victory at Gleneagles, delivering three and a half points for his team.
But he quickly found himself unpopular with the rowdy home crowd, turning to them with his finger to his lips every time a putt dropped.
All good fun and more pantomime villain than genuine hatred, but word on the street is that Reed was so unpopular thanks to his shushing antics that he needed a police escort out of the Scottish resort.
Two years later his finger-wagging exploits were back as he edged out Rory McIlroy in one of the most exhilarating singles matches in recent memory.
His sharp tongue
Reed’s potty mouth has got him in trouble on a number of occasions, the most controversial of which was when a homophobic slur – “Nice f***ing three-putt you f***ing f****t” – was picked up by TV coverage at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
I don’t think Reed needed it explaining to him why that was unacceptable, but even his apology came across with an air of him not understanding what the fuss was about.
At the other end of the scale there are the sly digs at fellow pros, particularly fans’ favourite Jordan Spieth. When he didn’t get a ruling in his favour at last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, he quipped to the official “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth.”
Reed pretends to not care about what people think about him – but that can’t possibly be the case when you say stuff like this…
— NCG (@NCG_com) April 9, 2018
Following the tournament, the American media decided started digging a little more into Reed’s personal life. The main question seemed to be: Why doesn’t he speak to his family any more? The decision to go down this route, rather than celebrate a new American hero, was met with derision.
Still, he will always have a Green Jacket and no-one can take that away from him.
More Ryder Cup controversy
After thrashing Europe in the 2016 Ryder Cup, Team USA headed to Paris in September confident of a first away win in the competition since 1993.
On the course, Reed gave the crowd what they wanted with his now trademark shushing gesture. But off it, it has been a whole other story.
Reed was unhappy at being paired with Tiger Woods rather than Jordan Spieth – although an anonymous member of the USA team has come out and said he’s “full of s***” and “begged to play with Tiger” – and claiming he wanted to “light up the press conference like Phil in ’14”.
First up, Reed’s wife, Justine, had a few things to say on Twitter in defence of her husband. Here is just one instance:
I can assure you- you’re wrong. Patrick never said that he didn’t want to play with Jordan. Maybe you should ask Jordan why he didn’t want to play with Patrick. You don’t have to love the people you work with- but when you have chemistry and success, you go with it for the TEAM.
— Justine (@JustineKReed) September 28, 2018
Incidentally, when Justine was approached by a reporter at Le Golf National to find out if the account was really her, she replied, rather unconvincingly: “I can’t really say, I just don’t know.”
And then it all got a bit unsavoury and included his mother-in-law, Janet Kessler Karain, getting involved in the comments section underneath an article posted by Golf.com:
Things are getting, um, interesting in the comment section of @Josh_Berhow's Patrick Reed article. Reed's mother-in-law calling out Spieth, Furyk, Tiger, the "Buddy System," and a lot more… pic.twitter.com/DVe5O3lSk4
— Dylan Dethier (@dylan_dethier) October 4, 2018
It would interesting to hear Reed’s thoughts on these controversies. I’m sure he can’t be too impressed that his wife and her mother are fighting his battles for him. Who knows? Maybe he does like it.
So what’s next for Reed and his seemingly never-ending list of controversies? He needs to do something, because being a pantomime villain is one thing, but it’s a long way back from Public Enemy No. 1.
Or maybe he simply doesn’t care.
He probably doesn’t care.
He definitely doesn’t care.