For a man who was famously quoted saying, ‘For somebody who is as successful as I am in the Ryder Cup, I don’t think it’s not too smart to sit me twice,’ – referencing his double sit-out at the 2018 tournament – it’s perhaps a good thing that golf is primarily an individual sport.
If he was a philosopher, Patrick Reed would be René Descartes in a golf cart, given his obsession with ‘the self’, but don’t be fooled by the spiky Texan.
Reed finds himself roundly criticised in most quarters – not least on the American circuit, and may even find it difficult to be picked in future Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup affairs, but is he really as divisive as the press like to make out?
Take Tiger Woods’ apology to Reed following their fourballs defeat to European pair Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood at the 2018 Ryder Cup. Reed responded by saying, ‘We win together as a team and we lose together as a team.’ The Texan also said that there was a reminder to Team USA to ‘…leave your egos at the door.’
The greater truth may be that the 29-year-old simply thrives on the notion of sporting conflict. He loves feeling riled, hones his ability through resilience, and produces his best golf when his back is against the wall. He is the ultimate battle-hardened competitor for any event…
RSNG Where did it all begin for you?
PATRICK REED, PRO GOLFER ‘I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, although moved around and out to Pittsburgh for a brief time. There was a country club there called The Dominion. My dad would drop me off and I would just play and practise all day. I absolutely loved it there and absolutely loved playing golf.’
‘The good thing was that The Dominion was such a great place for kids, and it was also so very inclusive. They made sure they made it a fun place to be for children who wanted to play golf and learn the game and it’s a huge part of the foundation which I built my game and my career upon.’
RSNG You come across as a golfer very individualised in his actions, but was it always like that?
PR ‘Sure, I am always focusing on myself, but back to those days it was a very sociable thing, and there were lots of fun times.’
‘What I will say is I have always been as happy playing by myself and going through hours and hours of practice as a kid alone as I was around other people. It was something I got used to very quickly when my father dropped me off, so a lot of the time playing golf conditioned me to doing something that was very individual, and where I was at the centre of it, and I guess I have taken that on.’
RSNG Practice makes perfect, as they say, but were you always going to be a golfer or were there any other sports that you played growing up?
PR ‘I did actually have to make a choice between golf and another different sport, even though I was probably always going to favour golf. I played basketball, but also a lot of baseball and there came a point where I had to choose which one of those I was going to concentrate solely on.’
‘When I was playing baseball as well as golf, I had to constantly keep adjusting because although both sports to involve swinging a piece of equipment at a ball, that’s where the similarities end. The swings are totally different and when I was going out at the beginning of the season in both sports, there seemed to be a clash.’
‘That meant that I was going to have to make sure that my focus was on one sport in order for me to try and get as good as I possibly could in my personal development. So, I chose golf and I think that I chose the right sport, haha!’
RSNG That’s interesting – easy to imagine how the two could conflict quite badly?
PR ‘You are talking millimetres of precision as the difference between a great golf shot and a poor one, so having all that preparation and practice interrupted by the action of a different sport, a different weight of bat, a different hit height, even a different aim in terms of where the ball was to end it… it couldn’t carry on.’
RSNG Did you find it easy to walk about from a team sport and into a very individual pursuit?
PR ‘I guess so – it was a very different environment but it’s what I chose and I knew straight away, it was the right idea.’
‘I think this is important for all kids growing to play sports as much as they can because it really does teach you qualities that you can use in any walk of life. There are so many things you can learn from playing sports at a competitive level as a kid – being a leader, geeing up your team-mates if things aren’t going so well, not being a sore loser and having the resilience to get up and go again.’
‘I quite enjoyed the challenge of repairing a shot, repairing a round – coming from a point of adversity to prove to people I could get back on track’
RSNG What type of player would you call yourself nowadays?
PR ‘When I was young, I never really hit the ball as far as I wanted to and because I was trying to do that, it meant that my shots were sometimes deviating off-line.’
‘I was never going to give up at trying to go long, so after my tee shot, the next shot wasn’t always from the short grass and that meant that I had to keep coming up with new ways to get back on track.’
‘I quite enjoyed the challenge of repairing a shot – repairing a round. I quite liked coming from a point of adversity to prove to people I could get back on track. I’ve always been someone who scrambled a way through because that’s what I was doing as a kid.’
‘There are always those days where you aren’t hitting the ball as straight as you can or as pure as you want, so it’s important not to lose your confidence or your focus. Just because you aren’t on the fairway, it doesn’t mean that you can’t save the hole or the round. Being creative is one advantage I would say that I have that and it certainly helps me.’
RSNG Your mental strength has doubtless assisted you in joining an elite band of players to get three PGA Tour victories before the age of 24 (namely Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickleson, Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods). How did that feel?
PR ‘I was really proud when I became aware of that because you look at those players and you see what they have achieved. They are at different stages of their careers now but I think the strength of that achievement has been the same for all of them. They all had to overcome significant obstacles to achieve what they did.’
‘They are the types of players who have the will to win – a supreme confidence that they will be involved come the end of a tournament.’
RSNG What similarities do you see in comparing you with them?
PR ‘I can only speak for myself, but I know to win anything I have to be relentless, respectful of opponents, and I know I can never take my foot off the gas pedal. After seeing Tiger and Phil – who have been arguably the best of this generation – grind their opponents into the floor in events in the peak of their careers, your first reaction is to follow that and create your own success, but you have to do it your own way.’
‘You cannot be a copy of someone else, ever.’
‘I don’t think I’ll mellow. Ever.’
RSNG And, you did when winning the Masters in 2018?
PR ‘Yeah, again, that was one of those things which was helped by my mentality and also, I wasn’t fazed by the ovations Rory was getting on the Sunday because he’s a very popular player. Although most of the crowd was for him, I was just concentrating on getting myself over the line after building up a three-shot lead over the first three rounds.’
‘It didn’t matter that I was an American playing in a tournament based in America. The game of golf is a worldwide sport and the PGA is a worldwide brand, as are the majors. Nobody really owns them when it comes to support or anything like that. The fans travel from every corner of the globe and they have their right to cheer for who they want.
‘If I was to allow myself to take the focus off my game, that would have really harmed my chances of winning the green jacket. I suppose it was a little bit of a motivation when Rory said that he was trying to win his fourth major and I had none at that point.’
RSNG You speak as if you were rebelling against the conditions around you?
PR ‘I think so, yeah. I always take that battle mentality in. I had opponents trying to chase down my lead and I was there building a sense of gamesmanship in my head because I know that’s what makes me tick.’
‘I wasn’t nervous just because I had a lead to throw away or to lose, like Rory commented the night before we were due to play together. Having something like that said about me actually made me feel more confident, rather than it worrying me. I love situations like that when people doubt me or try to use psychology.’
‘I’m always going to be confident in my game – as any player at this level should be with their own game and usually, when I get hot with my game, I relax and just play. It was like that that day, because all of the talking was done and as it didn’t really register with me anyway, I was just eager to get out there and let my game do the talking. Thankfully, that was the difference.’
RSNG Do you think you will always take forward this notion of going into battle? Do you worry you might mellow over time?
PR ‘I don’t think I’ll mellow. Ever. Haha!’
WHAT NEXT? For a contrast with Patrick Reed, meet the most level-headed man in golf, Jason Day…