When Patrick Reed won the 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral he became, at that time, only the 5th golfer to earn three PGA TOUR wins before his 24th birthday joining the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. When interviewed following the event Reed was ever so direct stating he believed he was among the five best players in the world. Hubris? Certainly. Actual reality — no.
What Reed did not realize was the manner by which greatness is measured. Years ago, Hall-of-Famer and former 1964 US Open champion Ken Venturi was fond of saying that as a young aspiring golfer he was often quick to believe in his own ability. During a practice session in which the ball was struck with utter precision, Venturi turned to his Dad and stated — “not bad — huh?” His Dad looked Ken straight in the eye and said firmly back — “Ken, when you’re good — you don’t need to tell them — they’ll tell you.”
Self-confidence has never been lacking for Reed. Patrick — tagged as “Captain America” — he was the hero of the USA Ryder Cup win in 2016 with his epic singles match against Rory McIlroy – stood out leading the America side to victory. And in 2018 claimed his first green jacket with a win at The Masters — with McIlroy paired with him in the final round no less.
Yet, there’s also been the inability to sustain his stellar play on a fairly consistent basis to truly be thought of as being one of the five best players in the sport.
On the flip side — there was the flame out at the 2018 Ryder Cup Matches and since his Augusta triumph he’s only seriously contended in one major.
During Thursday’s first round of the US Open at Winged Foot, Reed shot a four-under-par 66 and stands one shot off the early lead of Justin Thomas.
Reed righted his ship in Thursday’s 1st round after double-bogeying the par-4 6th. He followed-up with a birdie at the 6th and then made magic with a stellar ace at the par-3 7th. Even in that moment of euphoria Reed was ever focused. “Of course, I was excited about it, but really I knew from that point, hey, you need to settle out, get ready for the next hole. Around here at Winged Foot, every golf shot you have to take full — basically pay attention to because you hit one poor golf shot, a lot of thing can happen out here.”
That momentum propelled him to have three additional birdies on the inward side and finish just one stroke off the lead.
With eight PGA TOUR wins Reed has always followed his own path. Patrick has proven at times inexplicable to some and irksome to others. His relationship with his immediate family is estranged and there have been allegations lodged against him concerning rules violations and cheating. How much of that is true versus envy from certain players is difficult to measure with certainty. However, if golf needs an anti-hero it’s his role to play. Looking back at the Masters win — although Reed played collegiate golf for Augusta State, the patrons were actually hoping for a McIlroy triumph.
Entering the 2020 calendar year, Reed was ranked as the 12th best player — he’s now 10th. A first round success only means Patrick has a better position than most but he’s ever mindful there’s more golf to be played. “That’s the thing, there’s a lot of golf left — 54 holes — and really you’ve just got to continue attacking, continue sticking to your game plan. At the end of the day if you let up at all or you try to play conservative, that’s when also you can get in trouble here.”
Reed is paired with his former Ryder Cup playing partner Jordan Spieth and he’s seen firsthand the continuing struggles Spieth has had in returning to world class form. For Reed well knows in golf — just like life – there are no guarantees a return ticket to fame is automatically stamped because of earlier successes.
The core of Reed’s success has been his resolute belief in himself. Winged Foot will clearly test that for the balance of the championship. But Patrick willingly embraces the test he faces.
“I love hard golf courses. I think it separates the top golfers compared to the rest of the field. Also, I think it separates the guys that can use creativity and can handle adversity. And I feel always been very good forgetting what happened in the past, forgetting what happened on that one shot and move on and focus on what’s coming up.”
The core of Reed has always been a fighter — going beyond when matters seem lost to others.
“Yeah, I’m a grinder. A lot of scrappy — when you’re playing well and hitting the ball well, you’re going to shoot low numbers. It’s when you’re not. And I feel like I’m able to kind of scrappy – scrappy type of golf, able to kind of get it around and get the job done whenever things aren’t going my way.”
Reed’s route to true stardom is now at hand this week at Winged Foot. Patrick’s pathway can showcase a meaningful milestone with a second major victory — far beyond the self-promotion words he uttered at Doral six years ago.
Then, as Venturi’s father was fond in saying to his son Ken — you won’t need to tell them you’re good — they’ll tell you.