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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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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”