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Patrick Reed tosses a ball to his caddy during the 2018 Masters he won with a score of 15-under par 273.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Patrick Reed.

There is no more polarizing name in golf. He is often portrayed as the game’s villain, or at best its anti-hero.

When he was grinding his way through a final-round 1-under-par 71 on Sunday last year to win the Masters tournament — by one stroke over Rickie Fowler and by two over Jordan Spieth, two of the game’s golden boys — people were on social media openly rooting against Reed, the former University High golfer.

When he sank that final 3-footer for par and the win, the reaction from the gallery around the 18th green was respectful, cordial, but noticeably restrained.

Why does Reed engender such a reaction?

The reasons, like the man, are complicated, though evidence exists that a kinder, gentler Patrick Reed is beneath the green jacket he won last April.

He has been dogged for years by accusations of cheating in a tournament qualifier and stealing from his teammates at Georgia before he was dismissed from the team and landed at Augusta State (now Augusta University). Reed has denied the allegations and was never charged with wrongdoing.

He was ridiculed for proclaiming himself a top-five player in the world in 2014 after he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. Last year, Reed — the guy known as Captain America for his play for the United States in the Ryder and Presidents cups and the 2016 Olympics — called out Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk for splitting up the power couple of himself and Jordan Spieth.

Reed said later in an interview with the New York Post that he was treated differently after his comments than Phil Mickelson was in 2014 after he criticized then-Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.

“He did it and got praised,” Reed said. “I did it and got destroyed. It all depends on who the person is, obviously.”

But who is Patrick Reed? The simple answer is, it’s complicated.

Jason Alexander, the head pro at The Club at Carlton Woods, north of Houston where Reed is a member, thought he had his mind made up. But he said once he got to know Reed, he found a different person than the public persona.

“When I first met him, you have that perception,” Alexander said. “He wants to come out here and work. But when he’s not working, he has been so sweet and giving with his time signing autographs. He told me, ‘I’ll sign all the autographs you want; just keep stuff in your office.’ He doesn’t want to sign when he’s working. But after, he’ll come and sign stuff for 20-30 minutes, maybe 60 things at a time.”

Following Reed’s Masters victory, there was a celebration for him at his club. Alexander said there were hundreds of members at the gathering. They gave Reed a standing ovation when he arrived.

Reed stayed for hours, mingling and signing autographs in his green jacket (Masters champions may take the jacket with them for a year, then may only wear it at Augusta National). Afterward, Reed and his wife Justine went to dinner with Alexander and his wife at a nearby steakhouse.

“He gave me a huge hug,” Alexander said. “He said, ‘I haven’t had that many people genuinely happy for me in my career.’

“When you break through that mold, break through that line, you see a completely different guy. You see who he really is. He’s guarded, but he has to be because of the perception he’s got.”

Reed helps sponsor an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournament, the Insperity Invitational/Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship in nearby The Woodlands, Texas. After he won the Masters last season, every child entered in the tournament got a signed Masters flag as a tournament gift. Reed also (quietly) contributes money to the AJGA’s bag tag program. He carries two of them on his golf bag, one for daughter Windsor Wells, 4, the other for son Barrett, 1.

“I happen to like Patrick a lot,” NBC and Golf Channel broadcaster Mike Tirico said. “I got to sit next to him at the Rio Olympics in 2016 when he and his wife went to a couple of swimming events. I always found a warmth to Patrick.

“I wish this didn’t play out for his own sake like it did with the Ryder Cup. With the 2016 Ryder Cup, the 2017 Presidents Cup and the Masters, Patrick had put himself in position to be remembered or looked at as someone special in the sport. Now it’s always going to be some other stuff going on.”

That other stuff includes his well-publicized estrangement from his parents, Bill and Jeannette, and his sister Hannah.

Bill and Jeannette Reed are not invited by Patrick to attend his tournaments. As far as anyone knows, they have never met their grandchildren. They live six miles from Augusta National Golf Club, but they watched from their two-story home on Masters Sunday last year as their son slipped into the green jacket.

Recently, the dynamic between Patrick and his family has become even more unusual.

According to the New York Times, Bill and Hannah showed up last September at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Patrick saw his father, not just mixed into the crowd somewhere, but standing against the gallery rope behind the 17th green at East Lake Golf Club. The next week, Bill and Hannah followed Patrick during his Ryder Cup singles match in France.

PGA Tour security officials have told Reed that they can not bar his family from attending tournaments unless they say or do something that would warrant an ejection. Reed told the New York Times he would not be surprised if his parents showed up at Augusta National this week, a potentially awkward and unnerving situation.

Patrick and Justine married when he was 22. Some speculate that was when the break with his parents took place, that they expressed concerns he was too young. Whatever happened, it was a rift that only grew over the years.

Family drama aside, two things never called into question are Reed’s talent and work ethic.

He already had a reputation as a stellar golfer as the family moved to Baton Rouge when Patrick was in seventh grade. He joined the golf team at St. Aloysius School. Alex Kleinpeter, already on the team, wanted to know how he measured up.

“When I heard this really good golfer was coming to St. Aloysius from Texas, I went out of my way to meet him,” Kleinpeter said. “I felt a little competitive about it, but the first time I saw him play, I thought, ‘Oh, this guy is a real golfer.’ ”

Reed went on to University High, where he led the golf team there to state championships in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, he also won the Junior British Open.

“There was never a time he wasn’t working on some part of his game,” said Matt Picou, Reed’s golf coach at U-High. “He would practice with us during the week, then on the weekends from eight to 10 hours on Saturday and play on Sundays.

“Patrick had his own routine. By the time he got here he was far more advanced than what I could help him with. He’d been swinging a club since he was a little kid. He could figure things out on his own on (the) driving range, correct what he was doing wrong.”

Reed hasn’t quite figured out what he’s doing wrong since winning the Masters. He has not won anywhere else and has not had a top-10 finish in 2019. But win the Masters once, they say, and it becomes easier to win again.

There’s winning, then there’s winning over the fans. Reed was asked here Tuesday if it was important for him to be popular.

“I feel like I have a lot of fans around here,” he said. “It all depends on how you handle yourself, and the more interactive you are with the fans they more they are going to respect you. The more people get to know you, the more they realize you’re just a normal guy out three playing golf, just doing your profession.”

LSU marketing professor Tommy Karam, who works with LSU athletes on enhancing their personal branding and dealing with media, said perhaps after a major title and several years on the tour that Reed needs to begin to consider what he would like his legacy to be.

“Absolutely everyone wants to be liked,” Karam said. “He’s got all the money and the fame and the records. Now he needs to be working on what he wants his legacy to be after his career is over.”

What Reed’s legacy ends up being is a question no one can answer.


Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​