Patrick Reed has yet to post his first top-10 in a major championship, and yet when it comes to his place in American golf history, he sits atop the mountain at the moment. That is what being a Ryder Cup hero can do for you, especially on a squad that has seen some dark days in recent years. But Reed put on his Superman cape and carried the U.S. on his back, all but willing the Americans to a victory at Hazeltine in one of the event’s more remarkable performances. Reed was the star, taking down Europe’s top dog in Rory McIlroy during Sunday’s singles competition to set the tone for what turned out to be a U.S. rout, a 17-11 victory that had been a long time in coming. Throughout that match – and throughout the Ryder Cup – Reed not only hit the shots and made the putts, but he functioned as cheerleader, motivator and just about everything else captain Davis Love III wanted as the U.S. won for just the third time in the last three Ryder Cups.
“The Ryder Cup was amazing,’’ said Reed, who at age 26 has now played in two Ryder Cups and a Presidents Cup and has emerged as one of the top young players in the game. “That was my fourth time representing the country playing on some kind of team event (he did so as an amateur as well) and that was the first one finally at home where I was playing in front of our home crowd. “The first Ryder Cup in over at Gleneagles (Scotland in 2014), I played really well, but it felt so empty because our team didn’t win. Even though with me playing well, at the end of the day, it didn’t feel that great because the ultimate goal is to get the Cup back and have the team win. “With how well we played and to play the way we did, the fans just insane…they were just so energetic, and kind of allowed everyone else to be energetic.
That pulled us through and helped us play a little better.’’ No doubt, the atmosphere in Minnesota was supreme, and no one was more boisterous and hard-charging than Reed, who went 3-1-1 in his four matches – partnering with Jordan Spieth four times – to run his Ryder Cup record to 6-1-1 over two competitions. It’s an incredible start to what should be a long Ryder Cup career. Now comes the part where it will be interesting to see if that success and confidence transitions into Reed’s individual game, which until late in the 2015-16 season had been lagging. When Reed started the 2013 season having just earned his PGA Tour card on the number, he was just inside the top 600 in the world. He ended the 2016 season ranked 8th, having played his way into a bunch of big tournaments.
He was the first player to win three times on the PGA Tour before ever playing in a major championship since Sam Snead in 1937, a pretty amazing feat in itself. But after winning the Tournament of Champions at the beginning of 2015, the victories dried up. Reed was a consistent performer, hardly missing cuts and contending often. And it’s hard to knock a guy who has already surpassed $15-million in career earnings. Still, adding to that victory total became a bit of an albatross. Reed was not a factor in the major championships and wasn’t much of one in other tournaments, either.
He finally broke through in August, capturing the Barclays – the first of four FedEx Cup playoff events – to bolt into contention for the overall FedEx Cup title and finally get that elusive victory, the fifth of his career. “The easiest way to become consistent at something is to practice it over and over and over again,’’ Reed said. “We’ve put in a ton of reps with it, with every aspect of the game and it’s starting to show on the consistency level. Now I just want to take the consistency I had and just kind of bump it up a little bit where it gets even better, where top-25s are turned into top-20 and top-20s get turned into top-10s and top-10s get turned into top-5s or wins. That’s just all about trying to have your bad days get a little better and have your good days hopefully improve to great days.’’
Reed’s greatest day remains the final round of the 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, where he took his spot on the driving range as the golf world’s curious eyes were upon him, Tiger Woods practicing one spot over. Both were wearing their Sunday red, but Reed seemed oblivious, practicing with music blaring in his ears. Woods was still ranked No. 1 in the world at the time, but if he ever caused any angst for the new kid trying to climb in the rankings, Reed never let on. And he played like it, winning that tournament without every relinquishing the lead, boldly saying afterward that he felt he was a top 5 player. “I’m working my way up to being a top-5 player in the world,’’ said Reed, who moved into the top 20 with his victory. “I haven’t been out here that long.’’ Long enough to see what he’s up against, and clearly long enough to have an air of extreme confidence, if not cockiness. Of course, he had just defeated the best field of the year, the first time he’d ever played in a World Golf Championship stroke play event, with his first Masters appearance looming.
Although he has yet to make it to the top 5, he is certainly knocking on the door. “Probably the biggest difference between (now) and that week was I had another guy in black and red in the group in front of me,’’ said Reed, referring to Woods. “And any time you’re kind of staring down Tiger Woods, you kind of have to sit there, take a deep breath and swallow, and hope that you go out and play some good golf, because he’s just as good as anybody who can get on a run. “For me to be able to go wire-to-wire that week and to be able to close out how I did on the back nine with him right in front meant a lot, and it just kind of gave me a little bit more confidence in myself that I can go out and do this consistently.’’
Reed and Woods were on the same side at the Ryder Cup, where the 14-time major champion served as an assistant captain and took a special interest in the team’s most fiery player. He followed him for support in many of his matches, and backed him up when Reed made it clear he wanted to be on the course for all his matches. “He told me and Tiger, “How could you sit out your best player? Why would you hit him out?’ ‘’ said Love, who told Reed that every player was going to sit out at least one match in an effort to keep them fresh for the Sunday singles. “We weren’t going to play him, but Patrick had such a great attitude. He was so confident. He was so confident in his partner that we ran his partner (Spieth) into the ground. The man was rolling.’’ Now the key is to keep rolling, which is what Reed plans to do as he cranks it up again in 2017.
January 01, 2017