Patrick Reed won the 2018 Masters.
What do I say about that?
Sunday night, I wrote about the thrilling drama of another Masters final round, only this time involving a young man who spent a half-dozen or so of his most formative years growing up in Baton Rouge. About how he held off the stirring charges of Jordan Spieth — who started nine back and finished two back after a Masters Sunday record-tying 64 — and Rickie Fowler, who shot a blazing 65-67 on the weekend to come up one stroke short. And of Rory McIlroy, Reed’s final-round playing partner, who seemed to shrink from the enormity of trying to complete the circle of a career grand slam with the one major title he lacks, slumping to a Sunday 74 and tying for fifth, six strokes back of Reed.
Reed didn’t flinch. Not when Spieth and Fowler and others were throwing their absolute best at him. Not on the first tee Sunday when he got a polite golf clap and McIlroy got a roar.
The reception when Reed sank the 3-foot par putt on 18 to win was more polite than warm.
There is no more polarizing player in golf. I did a segment Monday afternoon with a sportswriter friend who has a talk show in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In a poll for his show, listeners were asked if they liked Patrick Reed. Thirteen percent said yes, about 44 percent said no and the rest were indifferent.
Indifferent is not exactly a ringing endorsement. And it was not surprising. Which is why writing about the man inside the green jacket is so compelling.
How did Reed engender this sort of antipathy? Are people that familiar with his backstory (brash young phenom kicked off the team at Georgia amid charges of cheating in a qualifier, nearly kicked off the team at Augusta State, claimed he was a top-five player in the world four years ago when he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship)? Is it his personality? Is it the estrangement from his parents and sister? And why is Tiger Woods forgiven everything while Reed is forgiven nothing?
I would like to ask the people who vote against Reed in polls if they will be rooting against him when he’s trying to win a crucial point for the U.S. in the Ryder Cup this fall outside Paris.
Certainly part of Reed’s problem Sunday was that he beat three of golf’s golden boys: Fowler, who has yet to win a major; Spieth, whose public image is cultivated Drew Brees-like perfection; and McIlroy, who is Irish — and who doesn’t like an Irishman?
“He is very misunderstood,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s performance coach (the entourages these young players have these days) and former coach at Augusta State, on the Golf Channel on Monday. “He’s not a guy who is disliked out there (on the PGA Tour). But even if he was, I don’t think he’d care very much.”
I don’t exactly buy that. Deep down, we all want to be loved. And from numerous indications, it was the disapproval by Reed’s parents of the relationship between Reed and now wife Justine that drove a wedge between him and them. While Patrick was slipping into the green jacket, his parents, who actually live in Augusta in a house former LSU golfer John Peterson rented when he played in the 2013 Masters, were reportedly celebrating but uninvited to join in the scene at Augusta National Golf Club.
There are stories on both sides, some supporting Patrick and some his parents. The ultimate truth is that it is a sad, sad situation that Reed and his parents do not have a relationship, that they have not met Patrick and Justine’s two children, Windsor-Wells and Barrett. Life is too short for such divisiveness, and here is hoping all the Reeds can one day find a way to bridge the divide.
Maybe, in time, Reed can become if not a more beloved figure in golf but at least more appreciated. He is by all accounts one of the hardest workers in golf, one who used to beat balls for hours at the LSU driving range. He is devoted to his wife and two young children. And he is proud to represent his country in the Ryder and Presidents cups as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics, when tons of top golfers were looking for excuses not to compete.
It seems difficult to imagine, but there is precedent. Jack Nicklaus was in his youth the brash, pudgy interloper who was knocking the adored Arnold Palmer off his pedestal. But Nicklaus morphed over time into a respected and finally adored elder statesman of the game.
Sergio Garcia, the feel-good champion of the 2017 Masters, was for much of his career a whiny, woe-is-me, underachieving kid. But when he won last year, it was a celebrated win for a man who grew to reinvent both his attitude and himself.
Such a path might not seem possible for Reed right now. First impressions are lasting impressions. But as inevitable as winning a major seemed for Reed, it seems just as certain that he isn’t done.
Winning changes a lot of attitudes.