Patrick Reed managed to become a household name in 39 seconds.
Perhaps you didn’t know that he went 6-0 in match play while leading tiny Augusta State to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2010-11.
You might have missed his tour de force at the Humana Challenge, where he smashed all sorts of scoring records en route to an easy W.
But there was no mistaking this.
For the casual fan, the golf season begins at the WGC-Cadillac Championship outside Miami, and there was Reed, dressed in a familiar red shirt and black slacks, a one-shot winner, giving a greenside interview to Golf Channel’s Steve Sands.
In 39 seconds, Reed went from being known as one of America’s best rising talents to practically public enemy No. 1.
In 39 seconds, Reed compared himself to the “legends of the game” and declared that he was “one of the top five players in the world.”
This wasn’t an athlete getting caught up in the moment, a victim of live television and today’s “Gotcha!” social-media culture. No, Reed had said virtually the same thing a day earlier, during a sit-down interview with NBC, even before he’d beat Bubba and Tiger and Rory and all of the other world-class players who had gathered at Doral.
Reed’s comments proved more memorable than any of the 284 shots that he hit that week. In a quiet sport like golf, his bravado didn’t sit well with fans, who prefer their stars to be gracious, humble, grateful. Nor Reed’s boasts didn’t set well with his Tour brethren, especially since the then-23-year-old was actually No. 20 in the world and had not yet played in a major.
Not that Reed cared, mind you. He said he was a top-5 player because that’s what he believed. If that’s the kind of positive self-talk that allowed him to unlock his inner world-beater, then so be it.
The trouble with such bluster, of course, is the constant need to back it up. In the eight events after Doral, Reed had five missed cuts and no finish inside the top 35. He returned to the spotlight at Congressional in July, where he held a two-shot lead after 54 holes, but he stumbled to a Sunday 77 and tumbled all the way to 11th. No top-5 joke went unwritten on Twitter.
With so many of the other top Americans misfiring, Reed’s three wins in seven months were still enough to guarantee him an automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and for that he should be considered fortunate. So much of an outsider was Reed that it was unclear who, if anyone, would want to partner with him. The answer seems so obvious now, because in one of Tom Watson’s few strokes of genius he teamed Reed with fellow 20-something Spieth.
Over those three days in Scotland, Reed began to change public perception. First, the young studs steamrolled Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter and native son Stephen Gallacher in morning fourballs. Then, after Watson made the first of several curious decisions by benching the rookies in the afternoon, Reed and Spieth turned around the next day and went 1-0-1, electrifying Team USA fans with their passion and solidifying this as the best America duo not just for 2014 but also the foreseeable future.
And finally, Reed saved his antagonistic best for Sunday singles, when after making a par putt against Henrik Stenson, he pressed his right index finger to his lips and shushed the home crowd. He went on to win, 1 up. If nothing else, the kid has stones.
In what amounted to another lost Ryder Cup, Reed was easily America’s best player, going 3-0-1, all while offering hope for the future in this new era of task forces and subcommittees.
He remains far too combustible on the course to truly be considered a top-5 player – the 68-82 swing in Boston comes to mind – but he’s making progress, up to No. 23 at year’s end.
More than his golf it’s his competitive friction that makes Reed so wildly entertaining. He’s carried a chip the size of Texas on his shoulder since his junior days in the Lone Star State, and it’s brought him success at every level. In college, he was always overshadowed by Peter Uihlein and Russell Henley, Scott Langley and Bud Cauley, Blayne Barber and Patrick Cantlay. Reed not only has the two NCAA titles, but he also has more Tour wins than all those players combined.
Sure, his fiery disposition will occasionally cause him to run afoul of fans and sponsors, such as when he directed a profane, homophobic slur at himself after a missed putt in Shanghai. But the kid is a splash of bourbon on an increasingly vanilla tour.
Thirty-nine seconds solidified that.