Patrick Reed walked away from the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow last summer with a runner-up finish in his first Sunday hunt at a major, and his primary sentiment was disappointment.
“I was upset,” he said of his first top-10 major finish in 16 career starts. “I had one round in there where I only hit five total greens and shot 1-over. To do something like that and still have a chance to win a major was awesome, but at the same time just looking back that one round cost me my first major.”
That one round was Friday’s second, when he was playing with eventual champion Justin Thomas. Reed’s 73 was seven shots worse than Thomas’ 66, and it proved to be too much to overcome on the weekend when a bogey on the 18th hole Sunday left him two shots short.
That said, the performance put an end to the criticism that despite his emergence as one of the top-ranked golfers in the world, the former Augusta State star had never finished better than 12th in a major. That changes the narrative when he comes back to Augusta for his fifth Masters Tournament start.
“It was good and I’m going to build off that going to Augusta,” Reed said of his PGA experience. “But really I need to go to Augusta and get comfortable on those greens.”
Reed’s major debut came at the 2014 Masters, and it proved to be a rude awakening. He’d played the course a few times as a member of the Jaguars’ two-time NCAA championship golf team across town, but nothing prepared him for what awaited when the tournament started on Thursday.
“The hardest thing is when you get there so early and you have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday really getting used to the greens and Thursday they’re 5 feet faster,” he said. “That threw me for a loop my first year out there. I was shocked and I didn’t really adjust. Knowing that, now I can adjust and expect that to happen come Thursday.”
Reed has still not quite gotten the feel on Augusta's greens. The same issues that caused him to miss the cut as a Masters rookie in 2014 sent him home early again last year. In between he finished tied for 22nd and 49th.
“I’ve had 19 putts on the front nine at least once the past three years,” he said. “Last year I hit the ball really well even though I missed the cut. It was the putter. I had 37 putts and 35 putts. My norm is around 27-29 putts a round. That’s a lot of shots I’m losing. That’s really it.”
Losing shots has been a recurring theme in Reed’s season leading up to the Masters, as his best efforts have been sabotaged by too many disaster holes. He described his game a month out from the Masters as “a hair off,” an assessment validated by a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship when he three-putted the final hole to miss forcing a playoff.
“It’s either not finishing rounds or not getting off to a good start,” he said. “I’m either having to dig myself out of a hole or I have a hole every round that takes me out of it. Eighty or almost 90 percent of all my rounds are pretty solid. The times I put myself out of position are doubles or triples. Just too many big numbers, which wipe out a lot of birdies. That’s the problem."