Funny thing. Out of the blue, a reader asked me who I liked to win the Masters and my mind went blank. So as it started to re-congeal the next day, it started trying to come up with an answer to that question. And in the blur of a typically fine field of golf’s royalty, the name that loomed over all of them was Patrick Reed. I dunno, I just really like the guy.
It begins with his grueling, 6 for 8 Monday qualifying back in 2012 and the fact that he had to come back a long way in Q-School that year. Limping out in the first two rounds (70, 75), he hammered it in the last four (68, 67, 68, 67) to make his card on the number, T22. If he doesn’t shoot 5-under in that final round, he falls to 26th and out.
And if that had happened, he wouldn’t have gotten all the starts he did in 2013. With that kind of certainty, he was free to play his aggressive form of play and miss a bunch of cuts; 9 of 22 by the time he pulled into Greensboro in mid-August for the Wyndham Championship. He and his wife and caddie, Justine, shot 66 in the final round to get into and win a playoff with Jordan Spieth, who ended up having one of the best PGA Tour rookie years ever, if not the best.
That win broke the ice for Reed and set the stage for two more wins in 2014, the Humana Challenge in Palm Springs in January and his first World Golf Championship less that two months later, the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
He comes into Augusta 2nd in the FedExCup rankings and ranked No. 23 in the world, a fact that rankled some who didn’t understand transformational thinking when he declared himself a top-5 player after the win at Doral.
What they didn’t understand is that he wasn’t speaking factually, he was speaking prospectively. He knew what he was capable of with all the hard work he had been doing and it wasn’t presumptuous of him to assume that his momentum would keep going. And for him, he was merely putting a fully-garnished, brightly-lit future in full display for his frontal lobe, the place the brain remembers and imagines the future. “Memory For The Future” is a very powerful guard rail while you’re doing that hard work.
Add to all of that that while leading Augusta State — yes, that Augusta — to two NCAA Championships, he got to play Augusta National three times. And he came away with a pretty good feel for the differences in the course between then and now:
We played yesterday [Monday] and also Saturday, so I was able to see how the golf course is playing compared to when when I had a chance to play in college. The only thing that seems different is the greens are a lot firmer and a lot faster. When I played it was still in absolute perfect condition and it still is now.
It’s just one of those things that I just have to get used to the speed and also kind of be careful where you position the golf ball around here because that seems to be just one of the main things.
That answer sounded like it had a bit of caution in it, carefulness as he says. But don’t confuse that with his full-on, aggressive playing style; he attacks golf courses:
You definitely know in the back of your head where not to hit it but at the same time what I like to do is focus where to hit it. Because if you focus where not to hit it, then you’re going to avoid that spot. And you’re going to miss it two times farther left or two times farther right trying to stay away from an area. I just try to keep positive thoughts in my mind and attack golf courses that way.
I dunno, thinking about it some more, I don’t just like this guy, I love this guy. No matter how it ends for him this week, you know he’ll have singed hair and bugs in his teeth from trying.