Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS -

The two faces of our new Mas­ters cham­pion, and the case of golf’s most com­pli­cated star.

The new Mas­ters cham­pion has be­come the poster boy for Amer­i­can Ry­der Cup jin­go­ism. So how come no­body cheered for him at Au­gusta? John Hug­gan searches for the answer to one of golf’s great enig­mas.

As ever, there was a lot go­ing on as the first ma­jor of 2018 reached a typ­i­cally ex­cit­ing cli­max on the 18th hole at the Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club. As a group of green-jack­eted, blue­blooded and grey-haired gen­tle­man gath­ered be­hind the two-tiered putting sur­face, some­one was win­ning the Mas­ters and ev­ery­one else was los­ing an­other chance at golf­ing im­mor­tal­ity. That same some­one was hug­ging his cad­die while the other guy in­dulged in a rue­ful hand­shake with the best friend car­ry­ing his bag. And a few talk­ing heads in television booths dot­ted around the premises were clam­our­ing to come up with the sort of Churchillian pay-off line that would res­onate for­ever with view­ers around the globe. In other words, all the usual stuff. This year was a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, though. The win­ner’s walk up the fi­nal fair­way, for ex­am­ple. Yes, there was cheer­ing and hand-clap­ping. But not since 1999 and the shame­fully near-silent re­cep­tion af­forded Jose Maria Olaz­a­bal – who had just had the un­pop­u­lar au­dac­ity to de­feat crowd-favourite Greg Nor­man down the stretch – had there been such an un­der­cur­rent of an­tipa­thy to­wards the golfer who would soon don the game’s most iconic ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing.

Pa­trick Reed is that man, of course. The 27-year old Tex­as­born some­time Au­gusta res­i­dent car­ries with him some­thing of a rep­u­ta­tion. And not in a good way. “Cheat,” “thief” and “liar” are just three of the less-at­trac­tive la­bels at­tached to the former Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia (UofG) and Au­gusta State col­lege golfer. Then there are the well-pub­li­cised – yet un­spec­i­fied – fa­mil­ial dis­putes that have iso­lated Reed from both his par­ents and his sis­ter. This long-es­tab­lished sep­a­ra­tion was given fresh oxy­gen dur­ing the Mas­ters through a (com­pletely one-sided) piece that ran on the Amer­i­can web­site, De­spite liv­ing only a few miles from the well-guarded gate to Au­gusta Na­tion at the end of Mag­no­lia Drive, Bill and Jean­nette Reed were forced to watch on television as their only son won his first ma­jor ti­tle. As has be­come the norm, they were sim­ply not wel­come, a fact that was made pub­licly clear when Reed’s wife Justine re­port­edly had her in-laws re­moved from the course dur­ing the 2014 US Open at Pine­hurst.

In the ab­sence of any com­ment from the man him­self (see side­bar) on any or all of the above, Reed’s im­age has long been less than healthy. Even as his Ry­der Cup hero­ics wear­ing red, white and blue have seen him hailed as “Cap­tain Amer­ica,” Reed has never en­joyed any­thing like the al­most univer­sal af­fec­tion af­forded to his con­tem­po­raries and com­pa­tri­ots Jor­dan Spi­eth, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas. As a con­se­quence, the new Mas­ters cham­pion re­mains some­thing of a mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure, al­beit his rel­a­tive anonymity is largely self-in­flicted.

None of the ac­cu­sa­tions made against Reed make for pretty read­ing. And, damn­ingly, the noise level em­a­nat­ing from the rat­tling skele­tons in his closet is some­what con­vinc­ing, es­pe­cially with­out his ver­sion of the tawdry tales. For rea­sons best known to him­self, noth­ing con­tra­dic­tory has ever re­ally been heard from the ac­cused other than long-ago blan­ket de­nials.

In his one-year at UofG – where he played on a ros­ter con­tain­ing three fu­ture PGA Tour play­ers in Rus­sell Hen­ley, Har­ris English and Hud­son Stafford – Reed was ac­cused of cheat­ing dur­ing a team qual­i­fy­ing event. Two ar­rests for in­tox­i­ca­tion fol­lowed, when Reed was first found drunk on cam­pus at 2.30am, then again af­ter a Ge­or­gia foot­ball game. There was also the rel­a­tively mi­nor mat­ter of a fake ID, some­thing of a right of pas­sage for vir­tu­ally ev­ery Amer­i­can col­lege kid faced with a le­gal drink­ing age of 21.

Ac­cord­ing to the Athens-Clarke County Su­pe­rior Court case docket, Reed pleaded guilty to that sec­ond mis­de­meanor and was put on pro­ba­tion, fined and sen­tenced to 60 hours of com­mu­nity service be­fore he was dis­charged as a first of­fender. In the wake of those and other in­ci­dents, Reed’s re­la­tion­ship with the other mem­bers of the golf team and their coach, Chris Haack, went rapidly down­hill. “My goal is to get my play­ers to think they are twice as good as they re­ally are,” Haack said. “Pa­trick al­ready thought he was twice as good as he re­ally was.”

So it was no sur­prise that he trans­ferred else­where. What was sur­pris­ing was Reed’s choice. Al­though his par­ents lived in the city that hosts the Mas­ters, Au­gusta State was hardly where one would ex­pect a player of Reed’s tal­ents to end up. Still, Reed’s new coach, Josh Gre­gory, knew what he was do­ing.

“All I asked him to do was keep his mouth shut and play golf and let his golf clubs do the talk­ing for him,” Gre­gory told ESPN’s Ian O’Con­nor. “It was the only way for him to earn the re­spect of his team­mates. Pa­trick was on his fi­nal strike, and he knew that. If he didn’t shape up, he couldn’t go any­where else. Even if he made the tour at that point, ma­tu­rity-wise he would’ve got­ten eaten up. I told him he was never go­ing to make it if he didn’t get things un­der con­trol.”

That stern warn­ing came af­ter Reed’s ar­ro­gance and boor­ish

be­hav­iour had alien­ated him from his new team­mates.

“He shot his mouth off early on when he shouldn’t have,” says Hen­rik Nor­lan­der, one of Reed’s team­mate at Au­gusta State.

Sadly, that an­tipa­thy es­ca­lated into ac­cu­sa­tions of cheat­ing that led to Reed be­ing sus­pended from team com­pe­ti­tion. Ac­cord­ing to other mem­bers of the Au­gusta State side, Reed re­turned fal­si­fied scores in two con­sec­u­tive qual­i­fy­ing rounds. This led to a mass con­fronta­tion in a meet­ing at­tended by the whole team. De­spite his de­nials, a de­ci­sion was taken to kick Reed off the team – a “sen­tence” later re­duced to a two-tour­na­ment sus­pen­sion by Gre­gory.

Per­haps sig­nif­i­cantly too, Reed was re­ported to have had tense tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions with his fa­ther around that time. Dis­pleased when his son did not play as well as he was ex­pected to, Reed se­nior was said to be “ac­cusatory and an­gry” be­fore the calls ended abruptly. In Shane Ryan’s book, Slay­ing the Tiger, the au­thor states: “The ex­act na­ture of the re­la­tion­ship wasn’t well known, but the sense among the team was that Bill was un­rea­son­ably tough on his son.”

All of which was the rather un­savoury back­ground to Reed com­pil­ing a stel­lar record in col­lege golf. In head-to-head play he was all but un­beat­able, a pre­cur­sor to the Ry­der Cup ti­tan he had al­ready be­come be­fore win­ning the Mas­ters. Fol­low­ing on from his vic­tory in the 2006 Ju­nior Bri­tish Open at Heswall, an un­beaten Reed led Au­gusta State to two con­sec­u­tive na­tional cham­pi­onships in 2010 and 2011.

In the first fi­nal against Ok­la­homa State, Reed de­feated Peter Uih­lein 4&2. One year later in the semi-fi­nal Reed beat him again – this time by 8&7, hav­ing birdied six of the first 11 holes. It was a re­mark­able performance but one that was to get even bet­ter – at least from Reed’s point of view.

Up against his former “mates” from UofG, Reed was drawn to play Har­ris English. Ac­cord­ing to Ryan’s book, Reed’s team­mates even went so far as to de­liver a pre-match mes­sage of sup­port to English. All to no avail. The re­sult was, ac­cord­ing to one wry ob­server, “the death of karma.”

“If you were to go back in his­tory and ask Har­ris if there’s one match he wanted to win, that was the match,” said Haack, who


was clearly strug­gling to find the right words. “Not only did it mean win­ning the na­tional cham­pi­onship, which was ul­ti­mately what we all wanted, but just a lot of the… oh, gosh, I don’t know, the way things al­ways tran­spired with Pa­trick… it just wasn’t a very… I want to take the high road here.”

In those two NCAA cham­pi­onships, Reed es­tab­lished a 6-0 record in match­play that made him per­haps the most feared player in col­lege golf. Not that such a rep­u­ta­tion made him any friends within the teams he played for, or with the am­a­teur game’s es­tab­lish­ment. De­spite prov­ing him­self at the high­est level – and mak­ing the semi-fi­nal of the 2009 US Am­a­teur – he never rep­re­sented the United States in ei­ther the Palmer Cup or the Walker Cup. Clearly, his rep­u­ta­tion pre­ceded him.

But enough of the his­tory les­son. Through all of his tri­als and trou­bles, one thing has al­ways been all but unan­i­mous: Pa­trick Reed was and is a gifted golfer, one likely to make it all the way to the top of the game. He cer­tainly was in no doubt from an early age, dis­play­ing, shall we say, an un­com­mon level of con­fi­dence in his own abil­ity. “If you ever chal­lenged Pa­trick at some­thing, he an­swered it ev­ery sin­gle time,”says Dar­ren Bahnsen, a team­mate of Reed’s at the Univer­sity Lab High School in Ba­ton Rouge Louisiana. “In one prac­tice round I hit a drive down the mid­dle, about 275 yards, and felt good about it. Pa­trick said, ‘Man, that’s a good drive,’ and then he got down on two knees and hit his ball 10 yards past me. From his knees.”

Noth­ing much changed over the years. In 2014, af­ter win­ning the World Golf Cham­pi­onship event at Do­ral, Reed (in)fa­mously pro­nounced him­self a “top-five” player when he quite clearly was not. It was roundly de­rided at the time, but, as they say, no one is laugh­ing now. And the news isn’t all bad. Not ev­ery­one is pre­pared to write off Reed as a re­sult of what are now dis­tant me­mories. Dun­can Weir, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of golf devel­op­ment at the R&A, re­calls driv­ing the teenage Reed to Hoy­lake so that the teenager could watch the open­ing day of the Open Cham­pi­onship. One day ear­lier, Reed had won the Ju­nior Bri­tish Open at Heswall. Ac­cord­ing to Weir, the young Amer­i­can could not have been more po­lite and pleas­ant to spend time with.

Oth­ers de­fend the up-to-date ver­sion of Reed, even if he is never go­ing to be one of the more pop­u­lar mem­bers of the PGA Tour fam­ily. Cer­tainly, some of his peers were less than im­pressed by some of the pub­lic­ity that im­me­di­ately fol­lowed Reed’s vic­tory at Au­gusta. The feel­ing was that more should have been made of the new cham­pion’s fine play and less of his com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with his fam­ily.

In­deed, there are play­ers who liken Reed – one of the hard­est work­ers on tour – to former Open cham­pion David Du­val. En route to be­com­ing World No.1, Du­val did not spend much time hang­ing out or chew­ing the fat with his fel­low com­peti­tors. Reed, who typ­i­cally plays prac­tice rounds alone, is the same. Just as Du­val did, he fo­cuses on his golf and does his own thing with the close-knit group he refers to as “Team Reed.”

“My wife Justine is and has been my big­gest sup­port sys­tem on and off the course,” he says. “My mother-in-law is ir­re­place­able in our lives and she is so sup­port­ive. My sis­ter-in-law, Kris, is my A-Team. My cad­die (and brother-in-law), Kessler, I can al­ways de­pend on.”

On the range, Reed is sim­i­larly re­mote. More of­ten than not, he wears head­phones as he works on the dis­tinc­tive swing coach Kevin Kirk has helped him hone. He is not there to so­cialise.

“Go­ing for­ward, I hope that the me­dia gets past Pa­trick’s past,” says 2006 US Open cham­pion Ge­off Ogilvy. “He could prob­a­bly help that by talk­ing about it all, at least a lit­tle, from his per­spec­tive. We don’t need to know any of the grue­some de­tails. But it would be nice to know more about Pa­trick Reed. He just needs to give us all some­thing else to talk about. If he doesn’t, the same old stuff is go­ing to keep com­ing up. Un­for­tu­nately, that is the mod­ern way of things. Judge­ment rather than ob­ser­va­tion dom­i­nates cer­tain ar­eas of the press.”

To that end, Reed has opened up a lit­tle since his Mas­ters suc­cess. Sort of. In an interview ap­proved by one of his spon­sors, Reed pro­vided some in­sight into his epic match with Rory McIl­roy at the last Ry­der Cup. The re­sult, as we all know, was typ­i­cal Reed, a one-hole vic­tory. But the good­na­tured in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the two pro­tag­o­nists more than hinted at the sports­man­ship Reed se­cretes be­neath his bois­ter­ous ex­te­rior.

“I wanted to play their best guy,” he said. “And that week he was play­ing best and I wanted to go up against him. When it came out that I was to play Rory, I was just so jacked and ex­cited


and ready to go. But the one thing that you don’t see in golf any­more be­cause it’s such an in­di­vid­ual sport is the ca­ma­raderie and just the friendly ban­ter back and forth from play­ers. You get it in bas­ket­ball, you get it in ev­ery other sport you play be­cause you’re in­ter­act­ing a lot with the guys. In golf you don’t re­ally have that. It’s just you and your cad­die.

“Play­ing with Rory, I’ll never for­get when he made his birdie on num­ber three to go one up in the match. He just gave it just a non­cha­lant lit­tle hand wag, that’s about it, and didn’t show re­ally any emo­tion. So, as we were walk­ing to the fourth tee, I said, ‘I just want to let you know, when I win my first hole, you’re go­ing to know about it.’ And he just starts laugh­ing. Then we tie four, go to five, I hit a great tee shot at the drive­able par four. I hit it up there to eight feet for ea­gle and make the putt and then I let him have it. I go nuts and he just starts laugh­ing again.”

Two years be­fore, of course, Reed had per­formed with sim­i­lar gusto in a more hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment at Gle­nea­gles. As the US side was ca­pit­u­lat­ing, he was one of the few shin­ing lights in skip­per Tom Wat­son’s team, de­feat­ing Hen­rik Sten­son one-up in sin­gles. No mat­ter the neg­a­tive en­ergy that sur­rounds him, Reed has al­ways found a way to win. Given his stub­born and sin­gle-minded his­tory, don’t ex­pect any­thing to change any time soon.

Reed is con­grat­u­lated by de­fend­ing cham­pion Ser­gio Gar­cia.

Reed’s im­pres­sive vic­tory at the Mas­ters was greeted with sub­dued ap­plause from the gallery at Au­gusta Na­tional.

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