AUSTIN, Texas — Got a confession to make.
I like Patrick Reed.
I know, I know, but there it is. Not saying I’m proud of it, but I like the guy. Really do.
Not sure if that makes me president of the Patrick Reed Fan Club or even the sole member of the club. Hey, I’ll settle for veep, for that matter. Even treasurer because, hey, this guy’s got a lot of coin after 12 wins worldwide, nine of them on the PGA Tour.
Now, I’ll acknowledge this opinion probably does put me squarely in the minority. He’s the most galvanizing golfer on the PGA Tour for the past several years, if not ever, and that may grate on some or even most. To me, he’s kind of a breath of fresh air.
Some might say hot air.
You say tomato, I say bad-ass golfer.
That said, Reed is confident. OK, cocky. But only because he’s good. You win the Masters, and you’re ranked seventh in the world, you’d be cocky, too.
So there I said it.
He’s just really good.
He was on Thursday, playing “solid” golf after tying his opening match in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with Bubba Watson in an All-Augusta showdown between the two Masters champions. On a sunny, gusty Thursday at Austin Country Club, the 30-year-old San Antonio native was in command the entire match before finally defeating rising star and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout 2 and 1.
“Yesterday I kind of got off to a really slow start, but today came out swinging,” said Reed, who won four holes out of five between 7 and 11 to take control. “Just came out hitting some quality shots early and was able to put myself in the right spot and be aggressive with the putter.”
And I don’t think I heard a single boo. Way to go, Austin.
Reed’s a guy who’s been tabbed the bad boy of golf, the villain who tests every avenue, who either pushes the limits of the rules or skirts them, depending on your point of view. As a ranking officer of his fan club, I will point out that he was found guilty of nothing by the Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he was dominant and won by five strokes, embedded ball in the rough or no embedded ball.
The only thing he’s really embedded in is controversy, and it follows him around like a stalker. Sure, he’s had his moments, but the guy seems authentic. Heck, he even picked up a new sponsor with Castore, which wants to expand its apparel line from the United Kingdom and signed him as its first American athlete.
He might not look dashing like a Dustin Johnson or a Bryson DeChambeau, but he seems skinnier to me and doesn’t mind looking as colorful as his game.
And to be truthful, there’s nothing really wrong with having a guy who gets viewers fired up either for or against him. The NBA’s had its Bad Boys, the Detroit Pistons and Patrick Beverleys. The NFL had Vontaze Burfict and Ben Roethlisberger and Ray Lewis, and, well, everyone hates Bill Belichick, right?
Critics hammered Barry Bonds forever for being surly and steroided up. Didn’t seem to bother him or hurt his performances any. Heck, some people even detest Tom Brady for. … well, for being perfect. Who cares if he’s got some dysfunction in his family — know anyone who doesn’t? — and is unusually blunt with some of his feather ruffling?
So I asked Reed if he’s comfortable with a tarnished image that gets sullied everywhere he turns.
“It is what it is,” he answered dryly.
That, of course, is straight out of Safe Sports Replies 101.
Translated, that means he’s not going to talk about it, and no one can make him. Which is completely understandable. The guy needs his space.
When I followed up and asked if his reputation bothers him, he said succinctly, “No.”
This writer followed Reed around for much of Thursday’s round, and he didn’t create a single scene. He never made a kid cry, didn’t kick a puppy, never once screamed at a rules official.
He did ask for a ruling from an official on No. 10 after a wayward drive clipped an oak tree branch and came treacherously close to flying out of bounds near a cordoned-off group of port-a-potties. The official didn’t give him relief in his field of vision toward the 10th green, but he immediately accepted it.
“Just hit a loose 3-wood,” he said. “I didn’t know where it went, so I hit a provisional. Luckily, they knew where my first one was, and my second one ended up into the hazard.”
He was completely, uh, embedded in the idea that his focus remained solely on the golf. He does have focus. While he bogeyed that hole, he quickly gained it back when C-Bez plunked his ball in the water not once, but twice on the next hole.
Reed’s advantage went right back to 3 up. And he held on for the win to make him the leader of his pool at 1-0-1 going into Friday’s matchup against Chilean Joaquin Niemann.
On this day, he was the perfect gentleman.
“He was very pleasant,” said first-tee announcer Ed Clements. “Got a lot of applause.”
Asked the cop who was assigned to Reed. The man said the same thing. Been awesome to deal with.
Reed even went out of his way to praise the galleries and thank them for coming out after a year in which there have been few or no fans on golf courses.
“We’ve had a little interaction with them,” Reed said. “I think we were the third group out, so we’re kind of flying around the golf course. Towards the end of the match you start seeing more and more people out there. You know, it’s awesome just to see them out here and see fans out at the golf course, and the more we can get, the more people out here and do it safely and responsibly, it’s going to be amazing. I surely miss them.”
You see? He’s even making public service announcements.
God love him.
So he’s outspoken. Who doesn’t like that? The media lives for colorful sound bites.
And he’s good.
Reed hasn’t had tremendous success here. In six previous starts, he’s advanced to the round of 16 only in 2016 and 2018. This could be a breakthrough for him.
Some wonder if his baggage might even keep him off this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team, but that would be very shortsighted. He’s one of the best in such volatile and tense circumstances because he can digest pressure and spit it out. He’s used to it. That’s exactly the kind of steel and grit necessary to challenge the Europeans’ dominance in that series of late.
His 7-4-1 record in three Ryder Cups and 4-3-1 at the Presidents Cup clearly should speak for themselves. Do the Americans want to win or just play nice and get along at team functions? That could be a decision for captain Steve Stricker.
Reed hasn’t given the team much thought, but you just know he’ll be champing at the bit to be included on the American squad that will compete in Whistling Straits.
“I haven’t, but it’s always on our mind, obviously,” Reed said. “But the biggest thing for us is you’ve got to play good golf. You play well, then you’re able to secure your spot on the team. So that’s all I can control now. Rather than thinking about the actual event, we’ve got to sit here and thinking about playing well each week so we can get on the team and go out and represent the United States.”
And Reed’s certainly got that part down. He ain’t dubbed Captain America because he’s been voted Mr. Congeniality.
As I said, the guy’s good. The fan club is open to new members.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/03/26/wgc-match-play-patrick-reed-fan-club/