Patrick Reed shines off the course and away from the limelight
Jason Alexander couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Patrick Reed’s home course in Houston held an event after his Masters win. Hundreds of members turned out to see the new champion, who signed autographs and mingled for a couple of hours.
Alexander, the head pro at the Tom Fazio course at The Club at Carlton Woods, and his wife went to dinner with the Reeds after the event.
“We walked out of dinner and he said I really appreciated it,” Alexander said. “And I said are you kidding me? We appreciate you coming.”
Then Reed showed some emotion.
“He had just a little bit of a tear and he said, ‘I don’t get that kind of response,’” Alexander said. “So he gave me a hug, and he’s got his green jacket on. That was a very neat moment. When he lets his guard down, he’s a sweetheart of a guy.”
Reed’s persona can be much different than what most people see on TV or have heard about him.
After a pro-am round at Bay Hill in early March, Reed spent time signing autographs on everything from Masters flags to photographs to programs. He was congratulated for his win at Augusta and called Captain America by others.
“There’s so many stories about Patrick Reed that not many people know,” Alexander said. “It stinks that the general public doesn’t know they are very, very special.”
At Bay Hill, Reed was stopped by a man performing card tricks near the back of the driving range. Reed and his caddie enjoyed the moment as the man had Reed cut cards out of the deck and then put them back. Every time he produced the one Reed had just pulled, which brought smiles from the Masters champ.
“I should be getting your autograph,” Reed told the man.
Reed’s year since his Masters win has been a mixture of ups and downs.
He has not won since Augusta National Golf Club, but he has been close. His best finish on the PGA Tour was solo fourth at the U.S. Open thanks to a final-round 68, and his top performance on the European Tour was a tie for second in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. That enabled him to finish second in the yearlong Race to Dubai standings, the best finish ever by an American.
Reed didn’t challenge at the British Open and missed the cut at the PGA, and in the PGA Tour playoffs he didn’t crack the top 10 in any of the four events.
Things didn’t get better at the Ryder Cup Matches in Paris. Reed, who had earned the nickname Captain America for his play against Europe in 2014 and 2016, was paired with Tiger Woods by U.S. captain Jim Furyk.
Reed and Woods lost twice to the duo of Francesco Molinaro and Tommy Fleetwood, who turned out to be the breakout stars as Team Europe won 17 1/2 to 10 1/2. Reed did manage to win his singles match against Tyrrell Hatton.
At the news conference after the matches, the U.S. team was asked if they were surprised about Furyk’s decision to split up the successful pairing of Reed and Jordan Spieth from previous matches. This time, Spieth went 3-1 with Justin Thomas as his partner.
Reed said nothing, Spieth said that the players “were totally involved with every decision” and Furyk said “I felt we had two great pairings out of it. So it was totally my decision and my call.”
Reed broke his silence not long after the news conference when he spoke with The New York Times.
“The issue’s obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,” Reed said. “I don’t have any issue with Jordan. ... He and I know how to make each other better. We know how to get the job done.”
The post-Ryder Cup analysis of how Reed handled the matter and the reaction from others lingered into the new year. Reed and Spieth were paired for the third round at Torrey Pines, and when Spieth walked on to the tee he gave his former partner a hug rather than the customary handshake as the two cracked smiles.
“Literally when we got off the plane, it was old news and we all moved on from there,” Reed told reporters. ”... We’re now just out here trying to play some good golf and trying to feed off each other as well as just trying to go out and shoot low numbers.”
Steve Stricker, who will be the U.S. captain in 2020, said he has already reached out to Reed.
“He explained himself, and how he thought he messed up at the Ryder Cup, and he wants to move forward,” Stricker said after being introduced in late February. “And that he’s got everybody’s back.”
Reed has no top-10 finishes this calendar year. He was in contention at The Players Championship until a final-round 78, and the following week he missed the cut at the Valspar Championship. That prompted a call to longtime instructor David Leadbetter, who was spotted working with Reed on the range in Tampa, Fla., the day after he missed the cut. Leadbetter subsequently joined Reed’s team of coaches.
Even with his Captain America moniker and a green jacket on his resume, Reed might be more popular outside the U.S. He has embraced playing a global schedule ever since he won a World Golf Championship event at Doral in 2014.
Take his trip to Saudi Arabia earlier this year. After a very long flight, Reed visited a local school near the golf course.
“It was only supposed to be a 15- or 20-minute thing, and to be able to sit down and answer questions and just have fun and talk to them,” Reed said. “They finally had to pull me out of there because I didn’t want to go. It was a lot of fun.”
At the end of the visit, Reed and the children posed for a photo outside the school. And, to have some fun, they re-enacted what might be Reed’s most famous Ryder Cup moment: the “shush” he gave to the European crowd in 2014.
“They loved it, they really got into it,” Reed said of the 60-plus children putting their finger to their lips. “Once the tournament started a lot of them came out and followed us around. That’s all we can ask for, to get more kids involved.”
Reed’s trip to Saudi Arabia also included another highlight.
It is customary to award honorary Life Membership status to any member of the European Tour who wins a major championship. The award is also given to people who have made a significant contribution over their careers to the game, regardless if they were members of the tour.
Previously, the only Americans to receive the honor were Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
Reed, one of a handful of U.S. players to compete regularly on the European Tour, became the fourth American when Guy Kinnings made the presentation.
“As you can imagine he was delighted, deeply honored and humbled, especially to be bracketed alongside Arnold, Jack and Tom,” said Kinnings, the deputy CEO and Ryder Cup director for the European Tour. “I know his wife Justine was absolutely thrilled too when he told her the news. I think the first line of his quote in our official press release summed up his feelings pretty well when he said, ‘Words can’t really describe how proud I am right now.’”