Patrick Reed finally won his first PGA Tour event at the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina. The last tournament of the PGA Tour regular season, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Not only did he get the win, he got all the spiffs that go with it: the $954,000 check, the two-year exemption, enough FedExCup points that he was launched up the list to No. 22 which gets him into at least the first three playoff tournaments, entry into next year’s Masters tournament and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua…in Maui…in January.
I have been writing about Reed for a while now, attracted by the fact that he was a Monday qualifier back in 2012 and managed the heroic feat of qualifying for six tournaments last year. 144 guys for 4 spots and a dream and he did it six times. But it’s a hard way to make a living and he ended up having to go to Q-School to earn his card for 2013. Six rounds for the rest of your life:
I mean Q-School is unbearable. Q-School is never fun. That probably took 20 years off my life (laughter), especially with how I did it.
The first two days we were 120th or 130th-something place going in and we shot 18-under the last four rounds, 4-under, 5-under, 4-under, 5-under, I think.
We shot 5-under the last round to get in on the number. That was extremely hard.
One of the things that makes this immeasurably easier for Reed is that his caddie is his wife, Justine. He is 6-feet tall and she may not be 5. And yet she heaves his monster Callaway staff bag on her shoulder and soldiers on. And he trusts her golf judgement implicitly.
I had a choice of choosing a picture of the two of them holding up the trophy together — she looked fit and darling without her caddie bib on — but I chose the one above because it clearly shows her participating in working out what he later said was the best shot of his life. Here he talks about what she’s been able to do for him:
What hasn’t she been able to do for me? I mean she gave up — she didn’t really give up, she put her career that she worked so hard to get, her two Bachelor’s Degrees in school through nursing and health administration — to put that on hold and to come out and carry my bag and be with me, I mean I’m lucky.
There’s not a lot of men that can say that out here. I mean I’m just so lucky to have somebody like that and she’s such a fierce competitor and she’s always so composed that it feeds on me. It gets me going, gets me playing well.
If I start going south, like yesterday I was three over quick, and to be able to pull it back and be even going into the last hole.
There’s not enough to say about her.
But it was his madcap, vagabond Monday-qualifying jaunt in the Spring of 2012 that is the stuff of legends. This is what you have to go through when you don’t have a place to play:
But also at the very beginning when we started — actually because we went from Valero [in San Antonio], we went up there prepared to the qualify. Got the [sponsor] exemption. Played, made the cut. [I] didn’t drive, Justine drove all night from Valero Sunday night to [New Orleans for the Zurich Classic].
We got in, had two to three hours of sleep. Had to get up, play a Monday qualifier. Made it in a playoff. Won in the playoff and then played in that tournament, made the cut.
Played well, then flew and got in at 1 in the morning into Greenville, South Carolina, stayed at my agent’s parents’ house. We had five hours sleep that night, then we drove an hour and a half to [Charlotte] for the Monday.
Went into the Monday and had a 20-footer on the last hole to avoid a, I think it was 6-for-2 spot playoff. I saw it going one way. Justine saw it going the other. I decided to listen to her. Poured it in the center of the cup.
So then we had to go and play in that event [Wells Fargo]. After Wells Fargo we flew back to Louisiana and we had to play the U.S. Open first day qualifier.
So I mean that stretch was unbearable. I don’t know how we did it. It was so tough. Between that and Q-School, I don’t know how I’m still here.
Fortunately, because he went to college at Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia, he had a lot of experience playing as an underdog. Not only that, he had the experience of coming out the winners in spite of that; they won the NCAA Championship two years that he was there:
I mean being at Augusta State, always being the underdog, had the mindset you have nothing to lose and that’s basically how I played all year this year, I have nothing to lose.
You know, played with Bubba [Watson], played with Zach [Johnson], played with Zach again today. Played with John Huh who won last year at an event.
To play with all these other winners I’m always the underdog and to get out and hear, when we were playing at Travelers just the roars that Bubba was having just by walking up on a tee, to play John Deere with Zach at his home event, basically to hear the roars he was getting. It felt just like how it did when we were at Augusta State. It was always everyone was rooting for everyone else.
And to be able to come out and play, you know, basically with no fear, go for it all, it worked this week. I mean I’m just going to keep playing like that.
I mean we have two guys on PGA Tour this year. We had Henrik Norlander and myself. To have that same team and to win the NCAA two years in the row, to beat Oklahoma State two years in row, to beat Georgia Tech, to beat all these top teams I mean just brought confidence into my game and also, so far, my career.
Reed shot 4-under on Sunday and Jordan Spieth, who won the John Deere right before the British Open, shot 5-under to catch him at the end of regulation. They both shot 14-under.
So they head to 18 for the playoff, Spieth makes a 25-footer for par and they head to the 10th tee for the second playoff hole.
Spieth drove it in play, but Reed pushed his drive into the right trees. And for a heart-stopping moment or two, he thought he was out of bounds.
When they signaled out of bounds my heart sank. I was about to burst out [in tears] right there. I pulled the hat down and I was just — I was so frustrated, frustrated and sad and then next you know when I look up I see Justine walking back and the look on her face.
There was some confusion by the marshals about the OB stakes and it turned out that his drive was in bounds. But it was not the best of situations:
So, you know, got up there and I saw it was in bounds. Actually had a wire next to my ball. I was able to mark it and move the wire. The ball moved. Put it back.
And, you know, basically felt like I was back playing T-ball. The ball was so far above my feet that it almost felt like I was taking a baseball swing. I couldn’t start it out, right. I had trees. I had a tree overhanging. Couldn’t see the flag. I saw the two blue towers behind the green.
I knew that anything was on the right edge of the tower. That literally was two yards left of the tree trunk and set-up and do what my swing coach told me to do, you know, work on — really, timing everything up, getting in a good pattern and being able to hold that shot off. It’s so hard for me to do that because I play draws.
Later, Jordan Spieth said that Reed’s second shot, in his opinion, was one of the most unbelievable shots he’s ever seen. There was pretty good reason for that:
It was a three quarter 7-iron, 163 uphill to cover that ridge in the green and 167 flag. It was a full 8-iron distance but if I try to hit something hard that thing would have gone left. We clubbed up one.
Actually went underneath the tree I was at. There’s two trees in front of me but they weren’t really in play. The ball is going to get over that. The problem was the tree that I had to go under, the tree trunk was right there. I really had to hit the ball dead straight and couldn’t draw and from a baseball lie.
As I said, the photo is of the two of them planning the shot out. Whatever they agreed to do, however he hit the shot, it worked. He hit it up that hill to six feet and made the putt for birdie to win.
Now that he’s won, it will be interesting to see if he can still remain hungry and play like he has nothing to lose. But given what he had to go through to get here, those lessons appear to be indelibly stamped in his very being.
Plus, he’ll have Justine to keep him on the path. I just love their story.