Reed not afraid to say what he believes

By Jason SobelMarch 10, 2014, 1:34 am

DORAL, Fla. – There was some poetic symmetry at Trump National Doral this week, where the resort’s eponymous owner claimed Ernie Els called his revamped course “a masterpiece” (he didn’t) and maintained that most other competitors “loved it” (they didn’t).

If there was ever a player who would fit right in inside one of Donald Trump’s gold-embossed boardrooms, where boasting with superlatives about oneself is less elective than prerequisite, Patrick Reed might be that player. Minutes after tapping in a bogey putt to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship by a stroke, he was asked on live television what he thought of a game that has yielded three PGA Tour wins in the past seven months, all before his 24th birthday.

“I just don’t see a lot of guys that have done that, besides Tiger Woods, of course, and all of the other legends of the game,” he said. “I believe in myself - especially after how hard I’ve worked - that I’m one of the top five players in the world. To come out of a field like this and to hold on wire to wire like that, I feel like I’ve proven myself.”

There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness, between brashness and arrogance, between offering an honest opinion and articulating something better left to one’s inside voice. And it’s clear that Reed doesn’t mind walking that line, which also makes him something of a walking contradiction – a professional golfer who is comfortable telling the world how good he thinks he is.


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Love it or hate it – and judging by initial reaction to his comments, there is no in between – you’ve gotta admit: We could use a Richard Sherman type in between the ropes.

Me? I love that the kid’s got brass ones bigger than The Donald’s oversized cufflinks. I love that he isn’t afraid to wear a red shirt and black pants with Woods playing in front of him on a Sunday afternoon. I love that when asked about his chances at next month’s Masters, the first major he’ll ever play, he said, “I know that any event I tee it up at, I have a chance to win.”

Maybe I’m in the minority on this one, but to those who disagree, I’ll ask this question: Who would you rather have competing for your country with the Ryder Cup on the line, a player who consistently talks about trusting the process or one who demands to run the anchor leg because he knows he’s going to win? Give me confidence in a 5-and-4 walkover every time.

And just in case you were wondering, that’s exactly what Reed did back in college at Augusta State. He told the coach – yes, told; not asked – that he would go last. End result: He never lost in match play and the team claimed two consecutive national championships.

When asked to list his top five, Reed named Woods, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Dustin Johnson along with himself. (Hey, maybe there’s a tie.) That wasn’t a direct swipe at Rory McIlroy or Jason Day or Henrik Stenson or anyone else. It was just him believing in himself.

Before Reed gets slammed too much for speaking out of turn, it should be noted that he isn’t simply trolling his peers for the fun of it. In fact, just the opposite is true. He wants to earn their respect and cares what they think of him.

“Of course I care,” he said. “It's always nice to get congratulations from other PGA Tour players, especially a lot of the guys that are out here that are veterans, who have won a lot and all that kind of thing. I grew up watching those guys, and I was always watching them on Sunday coming down, winning events, and believing in myself and also dreaming about winning events.”

He might not be the top-five player he insists he is – he’ll move to 20th on the newest world ranking – but a funny thing happened while we were waiting for Rory McIlroy to break out of his 18-month PGA Tour winless streak; while we were waiting for Jason Day to finally win that elusive major; while we were waiting for Rickie Fowler to win his second title; and while we were praising Harris English for doing that already.

Under cover of obscurity and omission, Reed has emerged. He might not be the best of the bunch, but he certainly thinks he’s the best of the bunch. In the interminably mental pursuit of golf, sometimes just thinking it is good enough.

Here in Donald Trump’s biggest and – believe it or not – most blustery boardroom, the champion didn’t just have the lowest score, he might have owned the most hubris, too. As the boss knows all too well, that’s always a vital commodity.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”