Patrick Reed wins the 2018 Masters

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To say Patrick Reed is a complicated figure would be the understatement of all understatements in golf. As someone who is a firm believer of the “golf needs characters” theory, Reed’s overt brashness on the course is something that I quite enjoy, but the stories that are out there, both reported and unreported, present a challenge that is impossible to wrap up in hundreds, or even thousands, of words. Alan Shipnuck did a great job on Sunday explaining this for and I encourage all of you to read it, even if we may never get a full picture from Reed’s side.

But now, Patrick Reed is a major champion and one that we’ll be seeing walking the grounds of Augusta National for as long as he so chooses. I’ll be honest: I didn’t think we’d be here on Monday morning. At the conclusion of play on Saturday night, my mind was made up that Rory McIlroy would complete the career grand slam, vanquishing Reed in some kind of pseudo rematch from their tilt at the Ryder Cup eighteen months prior. The fan favourite taking down the heel, doing something that only five players in history have done, and doing it at the place where he has more demons than anywhere else is a great story and one that you would expect to come from Vince McMahon and not Fred Ridley. McIlroy even said all of the right things in the post round interview with CBS and the ensuing press gathering, suggesting that the pressure was more on Reed, and that he was hoping to come in and play spoiler. Reed wasn’t having it though, and apparently, neither was McIlroy.

It’s interesting with Reed. In 2017, he didn’t win a single tournament, the first time that has happened since he came onto the PGA Tour full time in 2013 and aside from that, he really struggled. For the longest time, he was on the outside looking in for automatic qualification for the Presidents Cup before qualifying at the last possible juncture. When his back was against the wall, he fought and got onto that team without relying on a captain’s pick. It was his fuel to play well, and that was something that was going through my mind as I watched him play on Sunday at Augusta.

There’s no doubt in my mind, nor should there be any doubt in yours, that McIlroy is a superior talent to Reed. McIlroy does things with the golf ball that, frankly, no one else can and that’s not a slight on anyone else. It’s simply a testament to how good he is when he’s on his game, and despite all of the cockiness and bluster that you can associate with Reed, deep down, he likely knows that that’s the case.

And he wanted it. He wanted McIlroy in the final round, just like he wanted him at Hazeltine, and I can only imagine that Rory’s quotes after the third round fired Reed up even more than he already was. He knew that people, like myself, were saying that McIlroy was the favourite to win despite being three shots back and he fed off of it.

“A little bit”, Reed told Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis when asked if he used that as motivation to prove people wrong.

“You know, I don’t mind when people say that other people are going to win or something like that, try and go against me because it just fuels my fire. It allows me to, kind of takes more pressure off of me and just allows me to go and try to prove to them that with the way I’ve been playing, and the way I feel like I should be playing that I have every right to have a chance to win this golf tournament as everyone else does.”

Slights, perceived or otherwise, have been used as fuel by athletes in all sports since the beginning of time. Michael Jordan, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, LeBron James, are just some of the players who have climbed the mountain after being told, or thinking they were told that they couldn’t get it done. Reed’s “every right to have a chance” quote is just the latest example.

Some players would look at their first great chance to win a major championship, especially one where they’re paired with one of the best players in the world on Sunday, and wilt under the enormous pressure that exists in that environment. We’ve seen it dozens of times over the years, and we’re going to see it again, but Reed wasn’t going to let himself be added to that list. Sure, it helped that McIlroy played pretty much as poorly as he could have on Sunday, and it was the players further back that ended up pushing Reed more than anyone else, but you have to give it to Reed for the way that he handled things on Sunday. At various points, it looked like he was close to going off the rails, but he always kept it together.

The bogey on 1 was bad, missing the fairway left and then clubbing a bunker shot long, especially after McIlroy made an all-world par after his own struggles from the tee. McIlroy picked up another shot, cutting the lead to one on the next hole, but Reed would get it right back with a birdie on three. Reed made three bogeys on Sunday, and followed them up immediately with birdies to right the ship, where McIlroy did the opposite, going birdie-bogey, never giving himself a chance to stay in the fight. Much like the negative fuel from before the round, Reed seemingly gained motivation from the negatives on the course, always picking himself up rather than staying down.

Reed knew he had to keep going, too. He’s an admitted scoreboard watcher from Thursday to Sunday, Masters or Travelers and even though he knew that McIlroy was struggling without looking at the board, he also knew what was happening in front of him. He knew that Jordan Spieth was setting the course ablaze, and that Rickie Fowler wasn’t going away. When Fowler was waiting for Reed just off of the 18th green to congratulate him on the victory, Reed smiled and embraced him while saying, “You had to birdie the last.” Fuel.

Patrick Reed is a major champion, something he knew that he would always be even if we didn’t, which is just the way he wanted it all along.

Quick hits:

  • It’s still so obvious to me that McIlroy is built for this place, but there’s also something off here. We can go through all of the usual caveats that I do whenever we talk about majors and how there’s only four of them, that we put too much emphasis on them, that they’re really hard to win and that you can play really well and still come up short. Those are all true, but man, Sunday was bad for McIlroy. The course was gettable on Sunday, and his 74 was better than only four players. It’s very possible that yesterday was just a bad day, but until he wins this one, the questions are going to be there, and he knows that more than anyone.
    • Part of me wonders how much the short eagle miss on 2 played a part in how everything unfolded. If that putt drops, the two are tied after the second hole, with a three shot lead erased. Reed may not change anything about his approach and how he handled things, but maybe McIlroy does. I don’t know, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.
  • I know he’s a lightning rod for a lot of people, but I loved what I saw out of Fowler yesterday. He played the last eleven holes in 6-under par, and really applied the pressure that McIlroy couldn’t. Granted, when you’re further back, you can get more aggressive than you otherwise would, but you have to be impressed with how he almost stole the green jacket out from under Reed. He’s going to get one, and it’s going to be soon.
  • McIlroy made be built for this place, but it honestly feels like Spieth may have been the actual architect. Watching him play on Sunday was just a treat, and it’s so easy to see him stacking green jackets over the next two decades. For whatever reason, it just works here, and I have to think that more than anything, he’s kicking himself over the 74 on Friday that sent him down the leaderboard.
  • Andy Johnson is always worth reading from an architecture standpoint, and has made me a much smarter golf fan over the last few years. This piece on some of the changes to Augusta, and how you could change it for the better is a must read.
  • On Tiger: I got to watch the vast majority of his shots last week, and it honestly felt like there was no middle ground whatsoever. He was either great or awful, and that goes for every single club in the bag. His distance control with the irons in particular was terrible, and while it was nice to see him find some fairways on the weekend with the driver, I’m not sure that any of us have the confidence that he’s going to be able to do that on a regular basis going forward.


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