Patrick Reed: Still trying to get better

Patrick Reed’s alleged hubris after his win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral is well documented by now. He unequivocally declared himself to be one of the top 5 players in the world. They “rolled the tape” again today in the course of a story about him.

Except it wasn’t hubris. It was speaking transformationally. The central idea in the transformation process is to stake out the ground you declare for yourself…and then wait for reality to catch up to your declaration.

That’s basically what I was doing in the early days of my Monday qualifying demonstration project. Even though I was a 7-handicap at the time, I assumed the role of a Champions Tour player in all my manner, dress and play. I told everyone that that’s what I was going to do. I never hid out; the words just never stopped coming out of my mouth. I reduced my handicap down to a 2 in just four months.

Reed’s declaration was the same thing although much of the way in which he said it was because of the giddiness he was experiencing in the moment after a huge victory. A WGC event is not chopped liver. 

But he earned his lesson and has basically just been keeping his nose to the grindstone and doing the work he knew then that he still had to do.

With his one-hole playoff win over Jimmy Walker in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Monday, he moved the needle a little closer to being one of the top 5 players in the world. And over a number of questions, he talked about what he had been doing to get there.

Right after Doral I really wasn’t thinking much about golf.  I was making sure Justine was okay and we were about to have our first baby.

My mind was more on making sure she was okay and making sure the baby was okay, and then I went through the transition on both of us trying to figure out fatherhood and golf at the same time, have that good balance.

Here he showcases the idea that while you are waiting for your results to percolate to the top, you don’t let go of the idea that there’s nothing wrong with your game, it’s just “coming around.” There might be pieces missing on a rotating basis, but the whole of it is in there somewhere and you’re just doing the work, waiting for it all to congeal:

My game was still there.  I just never put anything together.  There was always one piece that would be missing.  And you know, unfortunately there were some ups and downs there on my game, but I felt like I was improving, my stats were improving.  Things in my swing were improving.  It just wasn’t showing yet, and I felt like now, later on in the year it started to show again, and now that we’re rested, hopefully it will continue the good play that we are now.

To a question about whether he feels like he’s now getting the respect he deserves after his Doral win and his stellar performance in the Ryder Cup, he went right back to describing, not so much the respect he might have thought he deserved, but the quality of the work he was doing with his eyes looking straight ahead.

I don’t really think it’s as much respect as it is I’m just going out there and just trying to play my game and trying to improve.  There’s a couple goals my coach and I and Justine have set, and we’re just going to try to go out and get those and just improve day by day, and little things on the golf course with my game that I feel like I need to to become one of the top players in the world.

But you know, that takes time, and you know, I’ve done a pretty good job the past — we won Wyndham, but there’s a long way to go, so hopefully the team can move forward and go get it.

Even in his declaration of his goals now, he reflects patience in his description of the ups and downs of his game as he keeps moving forward; having bad stretches is just part of the game, not the final determination in the question of how good he can be:

One of them is a multi‑win year.  And it’s just to make that percentage of Top 10s better.  It just seems like last year I either played really, really well or I didn’t really play very well.

And it’s just to get that consistency better, and those are just things that we’re working on with the mental game, with, you know, course management and just with the golf swing.

And you know, it’ll come around, and here’s a little side note how I felt like I didn’t really have all of the tools on how I was hitting the ball and how I was putting, but mentally my game plan was really sharp this week, and that’s what kept us in with a chance to win it.

His performance in the majors is an incremental piece of that overall improvement and it has his attention:

 That just seems like that’s one missing piece right now is just contending and trying to win a major.

I was able to play in my first majors last year, and I was able to kind of see what they were like.  I missed two of the cuts and I made two of the cuts, but on Sunday I wasn’t even a factor, and that’s the main thing for me is just keep improving in the golf and then in the majors have a chance coming down Sunday to at least make some noise.

And here he makes the case about what the Doral victory meant to him in terms of his stature as a player; it didn’t, it was just another milestone along the way (even though he was a little inarticulate in the moment):

Just kind of backs up what we’re working on with my swing coach or with Justine, what we’re trying to do in the long‑term and with my game, with full swing, with putting, with mental game, with course management, those kind of things.  I mean winning here just kind of backs up that we’re moving in the right direction and we’re on the right path.

I mean everyone is trying to get to the best in the world.  But that’s going to take a long time.  It’s nothing that happens overnight.  That’s for sure.

And in a heartwarming way, he described Justine’s not insignificant role in all of this:

She’s involved with everything.  She’s at every practice, every practice round.  She follows me on every round.  I mean if I’m on the road, she’s my coach.  My swing coach at home, you know, is Kevin Kirk.  He’s not here on the road.

So if I start hitting some shots that spin, if it’s going right, I tell her that, and she’s standing on the range and she pulls out her phone and texts Kirk, and he tells her what to look at and she’ll look at it and she’ll find it.  And now it’s to the point she doesn’t even have to text him.  She can just be like this is what it is; you need to fix that.

Does he think his increasing success is because he’s been emboldened by his wins and he’s no longer afraid? Not exactly.

I think it’s just because I’m stubborn.  I don’t really care.  I go out there and just kind of focus on my golf game, and I don’t really care what anyone else is doing or however anyone else hits the shot.  I just know how I can do it, and you know, what works for me and what allows it to be more consistent under pressure.  And I just think that’s what it is for me.

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