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Like it or not, Reed a Masters champion

By Ryan LavnerApril 9, 2018, 2:03 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Of all the potential scenarios at this 82nd Masters, it wasn’t difficult to discern the patrons’ preference for a winner.

A Rory McIlroy Grand Slam? They cheered lustily on the first tee, but that dream soon fizzled.

A historic Jordan Spieth comeback? They stirred the pines, but he bogeyed the 72nd hole.

A feel-good Rickie Fowler win? They implored him to finish, but ultimately he fell one stroke shy.

And so the only one left to cheer late Sunday was Patrick Nathaniel Reed, who has seamlessly played the role of both hero and villain during his turbulent career.

Grievances, both perceived and otherwise, have fueled the 27-year-old’s rise to stardom, and so the tepid response to his one-stroke Masters victory was a fitting soundtrack for this complicated character.

“Patrick is a bulldog – he’s used to being the underdog,” said his swing coach, Kevin Kirk. “It doesn’t bother him that people like him or don't like him. He thinks, I’m going to win this tournament whether you like it or not.” 

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During a frenetic final round that featured a trio of star-studded challengers and raucous cheers for seemingly everyone but him, Reed never lost his cool, or the lead, during a gritty 71. All day he turned back McIlroy (74) and Spieth (64) and Fowler (67) to capture his first major – a title that long felt like his destiny.

“To win your first major is never going to be easy,” he said, after slipping into his size-44 green jacket, “and it definitely wasn’t easy today. It’s a way of God saying, ‘Let’s see if you have it. Everyone knows you have it physically with the talent. But do you have it mentally?’”

And that, of course, has always been the question with Reed.

Carrying a chip the size of Texas, Reed’s abrasive personality has rubbed others the wrong way for the past decade. 

Alienating his teammates at Georgia with his brash attitude and me-first approach (along with other unconfirmed misdeeds), he lasted only a semester with the Bulldogs, his dismissal expedited by a 2008 arrest for underage possession of alcohol and possession of a fraudulent ID.

In need of guidance, Reed found a willing mentor in Josh Gregory. Then the coach at Augusta St., Gregory convinced the brooding 20-year-old to eschew another big program for a Division II commuter school with a $30,000 operating budget. “I told him, ‘Let’s be the big fish in a small pond. Come to a smaller school, play for a coach who will be very hands-on and involved in your life,’” Gregory said. “That was something I thought he needed.”

The honeymoon phase wore off quickly there, too. Reed immediately clashed with team members and was suspended for the first two events of the semester for an undisclosed violation. Pushed by the team’s other standout, Henrik Norlander, however, Reed blossomed into the blue-chipper that all of those powerhouse programs had envisioned during recruiting. He helped carry little-known Augusta State all the way to an NCAA title, toppling Oklahoma State, one of college golf’s blue bloods. Afterward, Reed rushed over to Gregory, swallowed him in a bear hug and lifted him into the air.

“Coach,” he said, weeping, “Thank you so much for believing in me when no one else did.”

That season on the brink wasn’t a fluke. The following year, still isolated from teammates, Reed once again guided Augusta State to the championship match, where they faced a familiar foe – Georgia, the school that less than two years earlier had kicked him to the curb. Worried that his star would be hell-bent on revenge, Gregory approached Reed on the practice putting green before his match with Harris English. Before he could even utter a word, Reed looked at him and snarled, “Coach, don’t say a f------ word. I’ve got this.” He earned the clinching point, going 6-0 in two NCAA appearances.

It’s revealing that, all these years later, his former teammates are still reluctant to talk about his stint at Augusta State; Gregory, who still works with Reed as his performance coach, conceded, “There were some rocky times. It wasn’t easy.”

Patrick Reed, Josh Gregory at 2010 NCAA Men's Finals (Getty Images)

Photos: Patrick Reed through the years | Best of: Patrick and Justine Reed

The lone-wolf mentality may have created friction at the college level, but his intense single-mindedness immediately translated to the pros. After earning his 2013 Tour card, Reed took down Spieth at the Wyndham Championship for his first title. The next year, Reed outlasted the field at the World Golf Championship event at Doral, where he memorably claimed afterward that he was a top-five player in the world, when in fact he was barely top 20. Though his statement had some merit – he became only the fifth player in the past quarter-century to win four Tour events before age 25 – his delivery missed the mark. On a Tour full of straight-laced, PR-conscious automatons, Reed came off as unapologetically cocky.

To those who knew him, though, the bravado was familiar. “I genuinely have never met anybody who wants to win as bad as he does, at all costs,” said a former teammate. “I genuinely think he plays with hatred.”

But for all of Reed’s team success, both in college and at the Ryder Cup, he hasn’t been able to transfer that Captain America persona to the majors. He didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 major appearances, and then when he finally did, during a tie for second last August at the PGA, he bogeyed the 72nd hole to clear the way for Justin Thomas. Even as recently as last month Reed lacked the ruthlessness that has defined his match-play triumphs; he bogeyed the final hole in Tampa after having just a short iron for his approach.

His struggles here at Augusta were even more puzzling. In college, he played the course at least once a year, but in the winter the fairways were softer and the greens slower. The challenge seemed immense and he was psyched out, never breaking 70 in his first 12 competitive rounds.

“It’s always been a place that should cater to his game,” Gregory said. “He has the imagination and self-belief to feel like he can pull off every shot. Augusta is tailor-made for that.”

But after his first winless season, in 2016-17, Reed spent the offseason addressing one of his only weaknesses. He’s modest off the tee, at least by brawny Tour standards, and he didn’t drive the ball particularly straight with his slinging hook. He finally incorporated a cut into his game. “And once he’s in the fairway,” Gregory said, “he’ll be pretty tough to beat.”

Reed rounded into form with three consecutive top-10s, then repeatedly put himself in the fairway at Augusta, prepared to attack. On five different occasions this week he ripped off three birdies in a row, and on Saturday he eagled both back-nine par 5s. He dominated the par 5s (13 under), opened with three rounds in the 60s and grabbed his first 54-hole lead in a major.

Three clear, one day to go, and the only true threat in his path, it seemed at the time, was McIlroy.

On Saturday night, McIlroy set the tone for the final round, telling reporters in separate interviews that Reed had the most final-round pressure. It was clever, diverting attention from his pursuit of the career Grand Slam, but those mind games were ineffective on Reed, who has proved at every level – state tournaments, NCAA finals, Monday qualifiers, Tour playoffs, Ryder Cup – to be largely impervious to pressure.

“He’s not afraid,” Gregory said. “He’s the guy who wants the ball at the end of the game. He’s the closer. He’s the quarterback with two minutes left. He relishes that moment, that 1-on-1 mentality.”

On Sunday morning, when he wasn’t watching the Disney Channel with his two young kids, Reed listened intently to the TV analysts breaking down the final group. Not one to forget a slight, he drew even more motivation when all but one picked McIlroy to win.

The first tee was another eye-opener. “His cheer was a little louder,” Reed said of McIlroy. “But that’s another thing that played into my hand. Not only did it fuel my fire a little bit, but it took the pressure off of me and added it back to him.”

Reed looked shaky to start, yanking his tee shot into the trees on No. 1 and then failing to birdie the easy, par-5 second, but he rammed home a birdie putt on No. 3 to settle his nerves.

With a four-shot lead with 10 holes to play, Reed's advantage had been trimmed to one as he lined up his second shot into the 13th hole. Then he chunked his 7-iron, and his ball barely cleared the hazard and clung to the hill. As he approached the green, the grandstand exploded – Spieth had tied the lead.

“But he didn’t let the roars and the crowd get to him,” said his caddie/brother-in-law, Kessler Karain. “If anything, I felt like he knew that he couldn’t afford to slip. That motivated him.”

Reed stuffed his approach into No. 14 to 8 feet for a go-ahead birdie, then made three consecutive pars to stand on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead.

Up ahead, Fowler capped off his round with a final birdie. “It doesn’t matter,” Karain told him. “It all comes down to us.”

Reed drove to the edge of the fairway, then left himself one of the fastest putts on the property, a 25-footer down the slope on 18. Needing two putts to win, his first attempt raced 3 feet past.

About to step in for one last pep talk, Karain deferred. “I decided, no, don’t get in the way,” he said. “Just let him do what he does.”

Reed holed the putt for the win, and the crowd politely cheered.

“Great f------ job,” Karain told him. “It may not have been pretty, but it got the job done.”

Added Reed's wife, Justine: “It’s everything we’ve been working hard for. A lot of people, for a long time, maybe don’t say his name as often as they should. That’s what I think. I’ve always thought he’s a great player. That’s what he did today – he showed his true colors.”

And yet, the ending felt subdued, bittersweet and awkward, as some fans (and even a green jacket’s wife) openly rooted against him. There was no Augusta State support, despite the campus sitting just four miles from the gates here at the National. And none of his family members were present, either, even though they live in Augusta, because he has been estranged from his parents for the past six years.

It’s a sad reminder of his complicated past, and the memories he can't outrace, even with a major title.

“Unfortunately, people see the brashness and the bravado and the past incidents and think that he’s a bad dude. And that’s just not the case,” Gregory said. “He’s just in his own world and very business-like. He’s not the villain that everyone makes him out to be.”

No, he is the new Masters champion – whether you like it or not.

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Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit