They laughed when he said four years ago that he could be a “top five player in the world”.
That’s still to happen, but no-one is laughing at Patrick Reed now. The 27-year-old Texan is a deserved Masters champion after confirming what anyone who watched the last two Ryder Cups already knew, namely that he is as tough as nails.
Reed held off last-day challenges from Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm to win the event’s 82nd staging at Augusta National. He got lucky a couple of times, notably when his approach to the 13th stuck on the bank in front of the green when it could easily have ended up in water. No-one, though, could deny that he ended up as a worthy winner.
The highest world ranking Reed has ever reached is seventh. After this victory, his sixth career win on the PGA Tour and first in 20 months, he moved from 24th to 11th.
“I don’t ever regret anything I really say,” he said in reply to the confident statement he made about himself after winning a World Golf Championship event at Doral in 2014. “I stand by my comments. I feel like that I’ve played some golf that I need to play in order to get to where I want to be, and that’s to be the best golfer in the world. The way you’re going to do that is perform in these big events and to win these big events.”
Reed, of course, made himself ‘Public Enemy No 1’ in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014. He’d already joined forces with Spieth to beat Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter on the opening morning before putting up a finger to his lips in a shush gesture to the crowd after holing a putt on his way to beating Henrik Stenson in the singles. That, in truth, was just a sign of the competitor in him. He revelled again for the US team at Hazeltine two years later, earning the nickname “Captain America”.
In landing his hard-earned victory on Sunday, Reed became the fourth straight first-time major winner at Augusta following Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia. He’s also the fourth successive player aged 27 or under to land a major after Brooks Koepka (US Open), Spieth (Open Championship) and Justin Thomas (US PGA Championship). Golf is indeed in a good place and Reed looks set to play a big part in an exciting future for the sport.
“Today was definitely probably the hardest mentally a round of golf could possibly be,” he admitted after closing with a 71 for a 15-under-par 273 total, finishing a shot ahead of Fowler and two ahead of Spieth after they both turned up the heat on the leader with brilliant efforts of 67 and 64 respectively. “At the Ryder Cup, it’s just a totally different type of pressure. You go to a Ryder Cup and you feel like you have a whole nation on your back. You know, if you win or lose your match, you still have a bunch of other guys there that could pick it up.”
Reed will have a key part to play when the Americans try to land a first Ryder Cup win on European soil since 1993 at Le Golf National in Paris later in the year. He owned that stage when beating McIlroy in an epic singles clash at Hazeltine and this success has merely vindicated the confidence Reed has always had in himself. It came 12 months after he’d missed the cut in the season’s opening major. In 12 rounds before this event he had not broken 70. Yet, the Texan now has a Green Jacket in his wardrobe.
“I just needed to get right mentally coming into this week because that’s the biggest thing coming into Augusta,” he said. “It’s about not getting psyched out about the week, getting psyched out about the greens, how fast and slopey they are, things like that. I felt like my team was able to help me out on that and just handle it the way I needed to handle it this week.”
As well as he played, there can be no denying that Reed will not go down in the annals of history as the most popular of Masters champions. He was accused of cheating and theft during his time in college. He was dismissed from the University of Georgia on the back of those allegations, which he has denied. He helped Augusta State win two national titles, yet McIlroy received by far the biggest cheer on the first tee on Sunday.
“I don’t know,” replied Reed with a wry smile to being asked why he felt so many people seemed to be rooting against him in favour of a European. “Why don’t you ask them? I mean, I have no idea, and honestly I don’t really care what people say on Twitter or what they say if they are cheering for me or not cheering for me. I’m out here to do my job, and that’s to play golf.”
He also doesn’t speak to his mum, dad or sister. They live in Augusta but Reed deflected a question about them in his winner’s press conference. “I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments.” A sad situation, really, but boy is the new Masters champion one of the toughest competitors this game has produced.