The Transformation of Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed began Sunday’s final round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a 2-shot lead over Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan. Tiger Woods was one back of them. They seemed to be the only four players who hadn’t been befuddled by the Trump National Doral (Blue Monster) course in Miami, Florida.

Sunday can be a very tough day. It’s trophy day. It’s payday. It’s where you get into the deepest part of the cauldron which is big-time professional golf.

In that environment, Reed shot even par. Dufner shot 4-over. Mahan shot 4-over. And battling flaring back spasms, Tiger shot 6-over. Bubba Watson made a 4-under run at Reed, but started from too far back and ran out of holes. Same for Jamie Donaldson’s 2-under run. They both ended up T2 and one shot back.

All of this was a kind of defining moment for Reed. It was his third victory in fourteen events. At 23, he became the youngest player to win a WGC event. But probably most important, he did it the day after he proclaimed himself to be “a Top-5 player” in an NBC interview. 

Now on the eve of his big day, this sounds for all the world like hubris. But it wasn’t. What it was is one of the critical elements of the transformation process; stepping fully and completely into the role you claim for yourself…before you achieve it.

As I have said before, this was a principle I utilized when I began my adventure to Monday qualify my way onto the Champions Tour. The gulf between where I was and the great players I intended to join was enormous. That sort of disparity can discourage you from even trying. That sort of disparity can be disheartening in the early going when the dream seems so far away. That sort of disparity can spiral you down into resignation unless you can see beyond the carnage of your failed efforts.

One of the very first things I began to attend to was looking the part: I bought three Titleist visors, a bunch of nice golf shirts and complementary vests, a half dozen golf slacks and two pair of the top-of-the-line Footjoys. For the nine years that I spent trying, I never wore jeans or shorts again. Even here at home in the summer playing practice rounds in 104 degree heat, I wore slacks. Because professionals don’t wear shorts, they wear slacks. Practically, I also thought it was good practice for dressing as I would have to dress in the qualifiers, just as I thought that enjoying the company of my fellow members and supporting their play was good practice for playing in the tournament pro-ams. This opened up a lot of tee times because I didn’t care who I played with.

I cold-called Wilson, told them I was headed off to begin Monday qualifying and ordered a big staff bag with my name on it, just like all professionals have. And the big, oversized Wilson staff umbrella. They shipped it in two days. I bought a rain suit and stowed it in the bag, just like all professionals do.

So in all my appearance and in all my actions I looked the part of a Tour player even though I wasn’t just yet. I was breathing life into the vision I held for my future. It kept me in constant touch with what I said I wanted for myself. And it created conversations with people who could help me get there because that’s what most people enjoy doing.

And that’s what Patrick Reed was doing when he made his declaration that he was a Top-5 player. How do I know? Because that’s what I did and that’s what he was asked to explain after Sunday’s round:

I have a lot of confidence in my game.  It’s one of those things that you build confidence by how hard you work, and you know, I feel like I’m one of the hardest workers out here and it definitely shows; I have 3 wins in 14 starts, especially in a field like this, to go wire‑to‑wire.  It’s just one of those things that I feel like with how hard I’ve worked, I mean, I’m working my way up to become a Top‑5 player in the world.  But the thing is, I’m just going to take a little time in the fact that I haven’t been on the PGA Tour for very long.

And attire has been an important part of his transformation process too. He wore black slacks and a red shirt for his victory today and he was asked why:

Well, the best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants, a red shirt.  I was growing up watching him, I always thought, you know, it would be cool to wear black and red come Sunday.

You know I did it when I was in juniors, I did it in amateur golf, and you know, it’s worked.  Obviously there’s something behind it.

Another element of the transformation process was that he was embraced and encouraged by every member on his team:

And you know, my swing coach, Kevin Kirk, my agents, Mike Creasy and Kevin Kang, my wife, and my whole team behind me who is behind my scenes and all that kind of thing; they know how good I am and they believe I’m a Top-5 player in the world.  And I believe it, as well.

I enjoyed that same kind of support and encouragement from my wife and coaches and knowledgeable people I met along the way who told me that I could play at that level. I had a world-class short game; I could get up and down from anywhere. I drew so much praise from fellow players in the heat of battle, I knew that I was on the right track. I was just waiting for my full swing to catch up to my short game and doing everything I could see to do to make that happen. And that sustained me for nine years until I finally ran out of time.

Transformational charades are no guarantee of results, of course. But they do substantively embolden you and give you a bigger sense of yourself while you’re working on it. In time, the crutch disappears in your awareness because you have become what you said you wanted to become.

But in golf, as in anything else, you still have to produce results. Reed was able to look back at his for his affirmation of the player he had become.

You know, it’s just shown that with how I’ve been playing too, have 3 wins in 14 starts, to do the Monday qualifiers the way I did that, and just all those things that we had to go through, it’s just showing that we belong out here, as well as we belong to be in the conversation every week; that, you know, we’ll contend at every tournament we step up at.

Informed that his comments would most likely “gain some traction” on the Tour, he was asked if he expected a reaction from his fellow players and if he cared. In his answer we can see that his declaration wasn’t hubris at all:

Of course I care.  It’s always nice to get congratulations from other PGA Tour players, especially a lot of the guys that are out here that are veterans, who have won a lot and all that kind of thing.

I grew up watching those guys, and I was always watching them on Sunday coming down, winning events, and believing in myself and also dreaming about winning events.  To do it three times and as fast as I have, it’s one of those things that I can’t wait to get back out and play, try to get my fourth.

Also, just to see the guys and hang out.  I mean, it’s just a big family out here on the Tour.  We’re all out here doing the same thing, traveling every week and trying to strive for the same goals.

In that light, let’s hope that his comments come to be understood by everybody as the transformational lubrication they were intended to be — as a young man prospectively setting a high bar for himself — and not as the arrogance they could sound like at first blush.

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2 Responses to The Transformation of Patrick Reed

  1. John Monteleone says:

    Bill,

    Your take on Patrick Reed’s so-called hubris is spot on. Even Johnny Miller acknowledged in his closing remarks , “”You’ve got to believe in yourself.” Every great player in any sport first imagines himself performing at the highest level. I believe that these imaginations (such as the Little Leaguer in his backyard playing whiffle ball: “The count is 3 ball, 2 strikes, bottom of the ninth, tied score, 4-4. Here is the pitch, an inside fastball right where I was looking. I swing, get the bat head out front. Whack! It’s gone, over the fence. I don’t have to look. We win.”) actually relax a player when it occurs in reality. It’s the same focus, whether played in your mind or for real. Your journey as a senior golfer really helped in writing such a terrific column. Thanks fo the insight.

  2. Jared Jags says:

    Great article! If only everyone would read it, back off and let him enjoy his victory. He mentioned TW out of respect. The commentators are setting up this young kid, bullies on GC! I like to see excitement when a golfer wins otherwise it is quite boring. If I were Reed, I would tell the press to back off