AUGUSTA, Ga. (McClatchy) — Patrick Reed has played in two Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups. Three of those squads won, and the fiery Reed, both in spirit and play, was so instrumental in those victories that he’s come to be known as “Captain America.”
The 27-year-old Reed has posed in team photos and played alongside the standouts of his generation — Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.
All of those golfers finished the Masters late Sunday afternoon, when Reed capped a stellar week by earning his first green jacket and the first of what could be a handful of major triumphs.
Yet only one player stood behind the 18th green to offer a quick congratulatory hug for Reed — two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.
So much for good ol’ Team USA’s camaraderie, though Fowler was classy in defeat, waiting for Reed at the front door of the scoring room to offer a polite golf clap and handshake.
Imagine if Fowler had won instead of coming up one stroke short. The 18th green would have been a mosh pit of his “bros” like Spieth and Thomas, who would have been all too happy to celebrate their buddy’s first major.
That it was Watson who chose to be there was interesting, because he and Reed seem to be on the fringe of the PGA Tour’s “popular” crowd. In a 2015 ESPN poll, 103 players were asked who they’d be least likely to help in a parking lot fist fight. Watson was by far the “winner” with 23 percent, and Reed was second (11 percent).
By now, most of those who were even modestly interested in this year’s Masters understand there were some complicated angles to Reed’s victory. This wasn’t one of those endlessly joyful circumstances like last year, when Sergio Garcia finally ended his futility in majors with a Masters win.
Reed is a supremely talented golfer who played superbly and staved off some of the best players in the world. For all the blows that came his way — and there were plenty Sunday — he always had a counterpunch.
But in capturing the Masters, Reed’s past came alive, and there are some unflattering chapters that affect how he’s viewed by his peers, and now maybe by the casual sports fan who wouldn’t have recognized him on the street a week ago.
Most of the negative depictions came out publicly in a 2014 ESPN story by Ian O’Connor, and a subsequent 2015 book, “Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour,” by Shane Ryan.
The pieces portrayed Reed as a win-at-all-cost loner who was alleged to have cheated at golf and stolen money from his college teammates.
Ryan summed up O’Connor’s piece by writing, “A new picture of Reed emerged: Brash, arrogant, abrasive, unapologetic, winner. He turned potential friends against him, and he never seemed to care about the consequences — at least not enough to change.”
On a University of Georgia golf team packed with future PGA Tour stars, Reed, who started college at 17, reportedly never fit in. When he was kicked off that team for being arrested twice for public intoxication, he faced similar personality issues at Augusta State, though he led that squad to a pair of improbable NCAA championships.
Cheating is golf’s Scarlet Letter, and Georgia players alleged in Ryan’s book that in a qualifying round to determine which team members would play in the next tournament, Reed found a ball off the fairway that was in better shape than his own, and he hit that one. Confronted by his teammates, Reed pleaded ignorant.
That same year, Ryan reported, items were stolen from the Georgia locker room, including a watch, Scotty Cameron putter and $400 cash. The next day, Reed showed up with a wad of money, and after a teammate confronted him, Reed said he took the cash off a professor in a golf match. The player reportedly took that story to the professor, who said it wasn’t true.
Reed has denied any involvement with the theft.
Few current pros spoke to Ryan on the record about their college time with Reed. An exception was Swede Henrik Norlander, who played with Reed at Augusta State.
Knocking down any idea that there was a friendship between them, Norlander said, “If I’m going to express myself politically, I guess he’s an interesting character.”
People who knew Reed surmised for Ryan that Reed simply didn’t possess the social skills to be as good as he was and not alienate people with his cockiness.
In an interview for Ryan’s book, Justine Reed, who caddied for her husband before having their two children, said, “Really, he has few good friends out there, but he’s not worried about being the most popular guy.”
Understand, as a kid, Reed intentionally set himself apart from others. He took to wearing long pants for every round he played because that’s what the pros did. Imagine the eye rolls at junior tournaments in the summer heat.
Neither did he mind being ridiculed for wearing Tiger Woods’ colors of red and black on Sundays when he reached the tour.
On Saturday at the Masters, after Reed shot 67 to lead by three shots, he was asked what he thought of numerous people posting negative comments about him on social media.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask them?” Reed said tersely. “I have no idea, and honestly I don’t really care what people say on Twitter, if they’re cheering for me or not. I’m out there to do my job and play golf. I feel like I’m doing it the right way, and that’s all the matters.”
The other sensitive issue surrounding Reed is his estrangement from his parents and sister. Bill and Jeannette Reed live in Augusta, but weren’t on the grounds for their son’s victory Sunday and haven’t spoken to him in six years — since Patrick’s marriage to Justine.
As reported by Golf Magazine’sAlan Shipnuck on Sunday night, the family watched the final round with a gathering of friends at home. When Reed won, his mother cried and said, “I can’t believe my son is the Masters champion. It’s surreal.”
Asked in his Sunday news conference if it was bittersweet not to share the moment with his parents, Reed answered flatly, “I mean, I’m just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments.”
The soap-opera qualities make for a compelling portrait of a major champion. But it’s all been going on so long in Reed’s life that he hardly seems affected by it. He has five tour victories, a wife, two children, a green jacket to wear around the house and $1.98 million more in his bank account that he did a week ago.
On Sunday, Woods, a man who knows something about complicated back stories, tweeted his congratulations and needled, “At worst you have assured yourself a captain’s pick for next year’s Presidents Cup.”
Reed’s teammates can’t avoid him there.
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