KAPALUA, Hawaii – Patrick Reed’s eyes glaze over a little when he’s asked about Hazeltine National and last September's Ryder Cup.
“Crazy,” he said, looking a little like Steve Buscemi.
You remember the guy. The one who fist pumped, and yelled, and wagged his finger at Rory McIlroy, and perfectly played the role of endearing antagonist to the Europeans.
His play at last year’s matches, where he went 3-1-1 with a Sunday victory over McIlroy in an instant classic, was something Reed spent much of the offseason thinking about. But it wasn’t the fond memories or late-night celebrations after the U.S. finally broke its drought that occupied his thoughts; it was how he was going to channel all the energy, all that crazy, into events that don't have him clad in red, white and blue.
“We thought a lot about it,” he said. “The hard part is tapping back into it, and also when your mind is not right and your body doesn't feel very good. It's hard to snap into that.”
On the warm shores of Honolua Bay with paradise spread in every direction, it’s not exactly easy to drop into a mindset that's more pro wrestling than pro golf.
Add to that challenge a lingering illness that forced Reed to limit his off-season practice and preparation and delay his trip to Hawaii, and Thursday’s 3-under 70 was probably not entirely unexpected.
Being Patrick Reed, after all, can be exhausting. Pouring that much emotion into something can take a toll. But events like the Ryder Cup, where he made his second start last fall, have a transformative property.
“It just brings out the beast in me,” Reed said before slipping into a fitting third-person narrative. “He's going to probably pop in his headphones. If it's 20 degrees outside, he'll be in a short-sleeved shirt and we'll all think he's crazy, but he is crazy.
“He's going to go out and he's going to take on the world, literally. You know, it's just so much fun.”
It was fun, epic even, but the challenge for Reed going forward is bringing that “beast mode” to the office every day.
There were the headphones on Friday just past lunchtime, and the swagger, and when he birdied three of his first five holes, if you looked closely enough, you could see crazy in his eyes.
He added birdies at Nos. 10, 14 and 15 to pull into a tie for the lead and closed his round with two more to finish his day one back on a crowded leaderboard. Even without the histrionics that made the Ryder Cup so entertaining, there were flashes of that guy in Maui, where ocean breezes have a tendency of domesticating even the most wild beast.
“Yesterday it was literally impossible, I felt like to get into that kind of zone, and today it felt like it was close, but still it was really hard,” said Reed, who hit all 18 greens in regulation on Friday.
It is slightly ironic that the location has something to do with Reed’s play this week. He won this event in a playoff in 2015 and last year finished second to Jordan Spieth, albeit a distant eight strokes adrift.
But it’s the situation that always dictates how easily Reed is able to corral his inner beast. After all, a quiet Friday in January at the no-cut, winner’s-only TOC isn’t exactly Minnesota madman material, but he’s trying.
It would be a mistake to call Reed’s play when he lapses into his crazy zone the byproduct of anger, which is always a poor form of motivation.
“We were laughing and talking almost the entire round,” he said of his Sunday match with McIlroy. “It would have been really cool to see if they had the cameras on us from when we walked up to the first tee and just followed us the entire round, because it was a very fun banter back and forth.”
At best, it would be more accurate to peg Reed’s competitive transformation to an acute sense of situational awareness, and playing for position on random Fridays doesn't always fulfill that demand.
Reed can see the player he wants to be just as clear as players can see Molokai looming across Lahaina Roads. The really crazy thing is what he could accomplish if he were able to be that guy more regularly.