I don’t know what better encapsulation there is of the 2018 Masters champion, Patrick Reed, than the morsel of information CBS Sports announcer Nick Faldo shared with viewers while Reed was on the 18th fairway on Sunday. To get pumped up for golfin’, Faldo reported, Reed listens to “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, the song you know from every commercial over the past five years.
Reed, 27, possesses an earnest intensity and high self-regard that make him extremely mockable. And yet, whatever the guy is doing seems to be working.
A top college player, Reed didn’t take long to start winning on tour. After his third-ever tournament victory at a World Golf Championship event in 2014, his most prestigious win at the time, Reed became a heel for his boastful comments in a post-round interview:
I’ve worked so hard, I’ve won a lot in my junior career, did great things in (my) amateur career, was 6-0 in match play in NCAAs, won NCAAs two years in a row, got third individually one year, and now I have three wins out here on the PGA Tour.
I just don’t see a lot of guys that have done that, besides Tiger Woods, of course, and, you know, the other legends of the game. It’s just one of those things, I believe in myself and—especially with how hard I’ve worked—I’m one of the top five players in the world.
(Left out of Reed’s recollection of his collegiate golfing record: the accusations of cheating and stealing from his teammates.)
Reed is one of the many excellent players of his generation, but his comment that his record ranked right up there with Tiger Woods led to much snickering, as is appropriate when some golfer comes along and says he ranks right up there with Tiger Woods and inevitably fails. Reed’s self-perception as the heir to Woods has been evident by his replication of Woods’ traditional Sunday wardrobe: black pants and a red shirt. When Woods made his latest return, and Reed continued to wear red and black, some of Woods’ most ardent fans found it disrespectful. I found it harmlessly funny in the way all of Reed’s antics are, but Reed wore pink this Sunday.
Reed, as CBS Sports ham Jim Nantz said 700 or 800 times on Sunday, has earned the nickname “Captain America” for his playing in two biennial national team competitions, the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. Even when he wasn’t winning tournaments, Reid showed up at the 2014 and 2016 Ryder Cups, made just about every shot, and carried the teams on his back, celebrating aggressively with a total lack of tongue-in-cheek.
The most famous of Reed’s matches came against Rory McIlroy in the 2016 Ryder Cup. McIlroy, usually a more subdued player, came into the match with the idea of outdoing Reed’s ludicrous reactions.
Reed won the match and became the antihero American golf needed to defeat the European Team for the first time in eight years. And though most players probably throw their team memorabilia into the attic after the Ryder Cup ends, Reed has never taken his out of his golf bag. On Saturday afternoon, when a shower rolled through Augusta, Georgia, Reed’s caddie pulled out his 2016 team umbrella.
That history formed the overnight “storyline” heading into the final round of Augusta. Reed and McIlroy, in first and second position respectfully, were going to relive their classic match.
“I’m really excited to show everyone what I’ve got, to show Patrick Reed what I’ve got and all the pressure is on him,” McIlroy said in an interview Saturday night. “Patrick’s got a three-shot lead, I feel like all the pressure’s on him. He’s got a few guys chasing him who are pretty big-time players. He’s got that to sleep on tonight.” This is what qualifies for shit-talk in golf. It is unusual.
But McIlroy couldn’t get anything going all day and shot a 2-over 74. Reed faced late charges from Jordan Spieth, who was on the verge of a historic comeback round until he hit a tree limb with a pulled drive on the 18th hole, and Rickie Fowler, who fell one stroke short. (Tiger Woods fell many, many strokes short.)
I was frustrated throughout the round as I waited for Reed to collapse and bring other players into the mix. It didn’t happen. He played wisely, not taking too many risks and adding a birdie here or there when he needed one. Reed has never ranked inside the top five of the Official World Golf Rankings, but should land somewhere around 10th after his Masters win. Ask Patrick Reed, though, and he’ll tell you he’s the best player in the world. This weekend, he wasn’t wrong.