WINDERMERE, Fla. – You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and you sure as hell don’t wear the same one as the man of steel when you’re flying around fighting crime with him.
And yet, there was Patrick Reed on Friday morning, striding confidently to the first tee for his first career competitive tee time with his golfing idol, clad in almost the identical wardrobe that has been draped on Tiger Woods’ body for every victory on his exceedingly lengthy list.
Black hat. Red shirt. Black pants. Throw in a callous scowl and steely-eyed glare, and Reed essentially looked like he was dressed as Woods for Halloween instead of for the second round of the Hero World Challenge.
Not that this is anything new. After his WGC-Cadillac Championship win in similar garb earlier this year, Reed explained that it was a paean to his hero. "The best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants, a red shirt. I was growing up watching him. I always thought, `You know, it would be cool to wear black and red coming down on Sunday.’”
This wasn’t a Sunday, though. It was a Friday and, without question, Reed knew the identity of his playing partner. He later insisted the clothes weren’t an honorarium toward Woods, nor were they malicious trolling.
One thing’s for sure: He wore ‘em well.
Eighteen holes and 63 strokes after stepping to that first tee, Reed was the one who looked like Superman, jumping 14 spots on the leaderboard and rendering his idol to the role of Clark Kent.
“You know, I’d never played with Tiger before, besides in a practice round at the British [Open],” he explained. “It was good to finally be able to play with him, especially in competition. It was a lot of fun. We had a good time. I felt like we enjoyed ourselves out there, and luckily I played well.”
He played better than that. The 9-under 63 included an eagle and eight birdies against just a single bogey and is the tournament’s best total so far. It moved him into a share of third place entering the weekend.
Perhaps the most surprising part, though, was that he offered no bravado in the aftermath. No referring to himself as a top-five player, like at Doral. No playfully shushing the crowd, like at the Ryder Cup. No needling of the player he grew up watching.
“I've spent a lot of time talking to him before during practice rounds or while we're on the putting green or driving range, so I was already comfortable being around him,” he said. “If you would've asked me that my rookie year, maybe my second tournament and I was paired with him, I would probably say something different.”
Just 24, Reed is now a seasoned veteran. He owns three career victories, ranks two spots behind Woods on the world ranking and is equal parts famous and infamous – an intriguing mix in a game known too often for milquetoast competitors.
This week he’s literally playing with house money, the result of a late invitation into the elite 18-man field after Jim Furyk recently withdrew with an injury.
That sort of nothing-to-lose attitude might be what vaulted him from 17th place to serious contention on Friday, but it wasn’t without some 11th hour preparation, too.
“I found out I got in the event last minute,” said Reed, who last played at the WGC-HSBC Champions four weeks ago. “Probably wasn't really prepared and warmed up and ready to go.”
He could’ve fooled everyone else.
Reed opened with birdies on each of the first three holes, posting a front-nine 29 at Isleworth Golf & Country Club, where coincidentally his playing partner holds the unofficial course record of 59. He didn’t quite challenge that number, but he did beat Woods by seven in their first tournament round together.
One player who was neither surprised by the score nor his red-and-black ensemble was current leader Jordan Spieth, who not only played with Reed in the opening round, but had a front row seat for his brashness at the Ryder Cup, too.
“I was heading to the range and he was going to the first tee; I told [caddie] Michael [Greller], ‘Of course Patrick is wearing red and black today,’” Spieth laughed. “I know he was excited when we got finished yesterday and he saw he was paired with Tiger. … I wouldn't have guessed who would've shot a lower score. Tiger is capable of shooting 9‑under and so is Patrick, so I'm not going to shoot myself with that one.”
Reed didn’t just tug at Superman’s cape. He wore it. Then he stole the scene and saved the day.
Hey, it wasn’t the first time that a guy with a steely-eyed glare and callous scowl made shooting 63 in a red shirt look easy.