1. My favorite things about Patrick Reed aren’t the beautiful, towering irons he hits, or his silky putting stroke. It’s not the graceful club twirls, or his aggressive, pin-hunting approach on seemingly every hole. My favorite thing about Reed is he’s the living embodiment of a role we need someone to play in every generation of golf: the swashbuckling, no-apologies rogue.
2. It’s not easy to embrace playing the rogue, to wear the metaphorical black hat in a sport where there is pressure to be corporate, friendly, boring and polite. Playing the nice guy is typically the path to millions of dollars and minimal controversy — and for most players, it works. Jordan Spieth is the game’s shining example, the perfect face for the future of the game. The game needs him to be the genial Texan he was born and raised to be.
5. Or this quote, when Reed was asked if he was frustrated that he hasn’t won a major yet — he has no top-10 finishes in 11 starts — when some of his peers have already broken through: “Not really. I’ve only been on tour for three years. Everyone acts like I’ve been on tour for 15, 20 years. I’m only 25.”
6. Or consider how Reed responded when asked about making the Olympic team, an honor that came his way when Spieth and Dustin Johnson decided to withdraw from consideration: “It’s one of those things that just gives me goose bumps, because going over there, wearing Stars and Stripes, playing again, it’s going to be great.”
7. Even Reed’s answer, when he was asked what he thought about Stephan Jaeger shooting 58 Thursday on the Web.com Tour, was classic Patrick Reed: “It was interesting, because my mother-in-law’s birthday was yesterday. She turned 59, and she goes, ‘I want you to shoot my age tomorrow.’ I said OK. Obviously I didn’t come close, but at least someone did it for me.”
8. There is a little bit of New Jersey attitude in Reed, even though he was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana, and went to college in Georgia. He’s not deferential to anyone and doesn’t worry about people’s feelings, which might make him the perfect U.S. Ryder Cup player. (After just one win in the past seven cups, the Americans could use more of him. Even the Europeans couldn’t help but love it when he made a string of birdies in 2014 at Gleneagles, and he egged on the crowd between holes.) Despite Reed’s sense that no one clapped for his approach shot Friday on No. 9, the crowds at Baltusrol (in Springfield, New Jersey) seem to sense he’s a kindred spirit.
Even Reed was even a bit surprised how they were showering him with affection on Friday. “They are great,” Reed said. “They really get into it. I was surprised at how many fans were actually out here early this morning with the weather. They are a bunch of troopers. I’ve never heard so many people cheer about the Ryder Cup in my life, and we’re a long ways away from it.”
9. Reed, in fact, has become so wary of the media, he’s now suspicious of criticism even when there might be none — and in a way, I understand. There’s a needle we often ask our athletes to thread. We want them to be confident, lest we criticize them for lacking what it takes to succeed. But we also want them to be humble; if they’re too confident, we often criticize them for arrogance. Reed found himself in the middle of that conundrum in 2014 when he stated — in an interview immediately after his third PGA Tour win — that he felt he was a top-5 player in the world. The backlash was swift. Golf Channel’s Aaron Oberholser suggested Reed’s comments would be better off made “in the mirror, in the bathroom, when you’re home alone.”
I was curious about it, and after his round Friday I asked Reed: Did he ever feel that was a little unfair, the way some people chided him for coming across as cocky? What was wrong, after all, with believing you are a top-3 player in the world? The question, I quickly learned, did not translate the way I’d hoped. “I appreciate you saying top-3, because I said to-5,” Reed said, his words dripping with sarcasm. “I appreciate you calling me cocky as well. I don’t really know where to take that one.”
10. In the end, even though he seemed leery that I was trying to bait him, to set him up for more criticism, Reed went on to deliver a thoughtful answer — one that helps reveal why he’s such a fun player to follow, and why tournaments are always more interesting when he’s playing well. If Reed makes a charge at the leaders over the weekend, it’ll be because there is no doubt in his mind he belongs at the top of the leaderboard, even if history doesn’t yet back him up. As he ultimately said: “If there was not a mic around, and you went out and asked every single guy, and if they knew you weren’t media, and you asked them where do you want to be, they’d say No. 1 in the world,” Reed said. “And if they don’t, then those guys aren’t winning every week or even having the chance to win golf tournaments because they’re not believing in themselves.”