By Sam Belden
Last week, a world-class field of 16 golfers descended upon London Golf Club for the Volvo World Match Play Championship, one of the more prestigious tournaments on the European Tour. The participants included players from 15 countries, including Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Victor Dubuisson of France and eventual champion Mikko Ilonen of Finland. One of the biggest draws, however, was the American player: Patrick Reed, returning to Great Britain just three weeks after infuriating Europeans everywhere with his stellar play and intense demeanor at the Ryder Cup.
To say that the past ten months have been a whirlwind for Reed, 24, would be an understatement. In January, he took home the trophy at the Humana Challenge, just the third PGA Tour event of the calendar year. He followed that up with a huge win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, which raised his national profile to a new level. Since then, he has stayed near the top of the world rankings and recently went undefeated at the Ryder Cup, where he was one of a defeated Team USA’s lone bright spots. Not bad for a guy who began the year as the world’s No. 73 player. However, all of that begs a question: how did Reed end up where he is now?
It was not an easy journey. After putting the finishing touches on a superb college career at Augusta State, Reed hit the road, attempting to play in as many PGA Tour tournaments as possible and famously Monday qualifying for six events in 2012, an unheard of figure. These experiences helped him finally secure his PGA Tour card for 2013; that year, he played steadily before hitting his stride near the end of summer and taking the Wyndham Championship in a sudden death playoff over Jordan Spieth.
Since then, strong finishes have become more routine, but even so, life for Reed has not been without its struggles. After winning the Cadillac, he declared that he felt like “a top five player in the world,” but some members of the press ridiculed him, saying that he was an overconfident loudmouth. Even worse, he was unable to back up his confident words; it took him 16 weeks to post another top 25 finish after his most recent victory. All the while, he was forced to play with a new caddie. Reed’s wife, who had always carried his bag for him, took some time off to have their first child, forcing him to make it work with a new looper.
Even so, Reed was able to right the ship with a tie for fourth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and a tie for ninth at the Barclays soon after. He delivered a standout performance for the USA at the Ryder Cup and drew the praise of many people that were ridiculing him just months before. In all, Reed’s 2014 was a howling success.
Somehow, however, none of that mattered at the Volvo World Match Play, which is one of the final events on Reed’s schedule. Now a star in his own right, he didn’t feel compelled to worry about the expectations of others or the pressure to succeed. He only had to focus on the next shot, the next putt. There was an easiness to his game, and why not? In the past year, he has become a three-time PGA Tour winner, a World Golf Champion, a Ryder Cup star and one of the game’s premier young talents.
Good as this year was, things are still looking up for Patrick Reed.