BETHESDA, Md. – Forget about whether Patrick Reed is a top 5 player, it’s best to let history and the big heads at the Official World Golf Ranking sort that out. What needs to be considered when forming an opinion about Reed is his on-course performance multiplied by his limited body of work.
Reed has three PGA Tour victories in his last 22 starts and is 18 holes away from completing the single-season trifecta following a 71 on Saturday at the Quicken Loans National that left him alone atop the leaderboard.
That may not technically make him a top-5 player – he’s currently ranked 29th for those scoring at home – but over the last 12 months only No. 1 Adam Scott has four “Ws,” and two of those tilts, the Australian PGA and Australian Masters, came against less-than-world-class fields.
In a town where declarations rarely dovetail with deeds, Reed is a top-5 player in spirit if not on the spreadsheet.
The 23-year-old has become an easy target in recent weeks as he followed his boastful claims at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with some serious backpedaling.
He missed the cut in five of his next eight starts and hasn’t finished better than 35th since he rubbed many the wrong way with his brash announcement at Doral that he considered himself a top 5 player.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with thinking you’re a top 5 player – in fact, in his line of work it would be considered an occupational hazard to think otherwise. The problem, as many both inside and outside of the ropes figured, is telling the world how good you are.
On this Arnold Palmer seems an appropriate final voice:
“As my father taught me, and he drove home that point, he said, ‘Just remember something. You don’t need to tell people how good you are. You need to show them how good you are',” the King said in March.
“Win, and win as much as you can. I think (Jack) Nicklaus has done that. Tiger (Woods) has done that. I never heard Jack Nicklaus say, ‘I’m a great player,’ or Tiger Woods, as a matter of fact. They just get out and do it.”
To Reed’s credit, he’s weathered the slings and arrows of his media miscue with a level of restraint that, at least according to those who have spent any amount of time with him, defies his DNA.
Reed came by his post-WGC-Cadillac Championship swoon honestly. On May 22, he and his wife Justine welcomed the couple’s first child to the family, daughter Windsor-Wells, and on Saturday he admitted the budding family took an understandable toll on his day job.
“After we played Doral, I was more focused on making sure Justine was alright and making sure the baby was fine,” Reed said. “Family comes first, so I was more focusing on that.”
Nor is he oozing his signature swagger at Congressional, where an increasingly difficult golf course resulted in traffic largely bound in one direction on Saturday – south.
Reed bogeyed Nos. 7, 8 and 13 but still never fell out of the lead and finished with a birdie at the 16th hole to stake his claim to a two-stroke advantage heading into the final lap.
It’s also worth noting that Reed’s performance at Congressional has not exactly been a fairways-and-greens clinic. He connected with fewer than half of the Blue Course’s fairways on Saturday, hitting six of 14 in the short grass off the tee, but has saved par six out of the nine times he’s missed a green this week.
“Even if you get a good lie in the rough it’s just minimizing those errors on those risks,” said Reed, who is 3-for-3 on Tour after taking at least a share of the lead into the final quarter. “You get in the rough, you might have to play 40 feet away from the flag. You just have to.”
Whether Patrick Reed is a top-5 player really doesn’t matter. The record on this is as clear as a warm summer day in the nation’s capital; he has the ability to play like one and he has established himself as the clear headliner at an event suddenly starved for attention after Woods missed the cut.
There will be a front-runner on Sunday clad in red and black, just not the guy that’s actually in the top 5 of the world ranking. At least, not yet.