News & Opinion

Fearless Reed wins Masters showdown

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Masters champion wore pink.

If Nike hadn’t scripted Patrick Reed’s wardrobe for Masters weekend, I would have assumed that Reed wore a pink shirt in Sunday’s tense finale just to get an edge. The day before, his final-round playing companion Rory McIlroy joked about hitting a shot from the azaleas on the hillside at the 13th hole. “All I saw was a sea of pink,” McIlroy said.

It would be just like Reed, the ultimate competitor, to make sure that McIlroy saw a “sea of pink” all day long on his own back. If Nike hadn’t done it, Reed probably would have. Too bad reality isn’t always as good as fiction.

Your new Masters champion has a killer instinct. Think Raymond Floyd 2.0 but even more heartless … if that’s possible. Reed was asked about his unusual color combo of pink and green.

“It works,” Reed said.

Yeah, when you’re wearing a green jacket, as in The Green Jacket, anything works. Even Bernhard Langer’s bright red slacks and white belt, which gave the 1985 Butler Cabin ceremony a Christmassy feel. Langer, one of golf’s smartest men, saw the pictures and made sure that he wore a yellow shirt and dark green slacks when he won a second green jacket, in 1993. Much better style points.

Pink should be Reed’s new Sunday go-to color. He was a red-on-Sunday guy because Tiger Woods wore red shirts with black slacks on Sunday. Reed famously wore Tiger’s familiar red-and-black outfit in the 2014 Cadillac Championship’s final round when he teed off in the final group and Woods, wearing his usual colors, teed off just in front of him. Woods surely was not amused. Reed surely knew that Woods was not amused.

This gets at the very core of your new Masters champion.

“He’s not scared,” said Rickie Fowler, a Ryder Cup teammate who birdied Augusta National’s final hole and forced Reed to make par to win this Masters (scores). “You’ve seen that from the way he plays Ryder Cups. He’s not scared on the golf course. He won’t back down. I don’t see him as someone who backs up and lets you back into the tournament. You have to go catch him.”

If you’re looking for a new favorite golfer and you want someone who’s cuddly or cute or svelte or charming, Reed is not your guy. He is all business, all the time, when it comes to work. Fearless and driven to succeed are the words for Reed. In that department, he reminds me of another Hall of Fame golfer, Ben Hogan. He’s not Hogan’s match as a ballstriker but he wouldn’t be afraid to take him on. Reed is not scared of failure or success.

“Patrick plays pretty much every week. We joke about that in the locker rooms to him,” said two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, who tied for fifth. “To see his intensity week after week, I can’t do it. I don’t have the mindset, and I don’t have the energy. It’s pretty impressive.”

Reed doesn’t care if people like him. He’s “just out here to win golf tournaments,” is his stock answer to personal questions about his popularity or being estranged from his parents and his sister. He didn’t care that on Sunday morning, all of Golf Channel’s expert analysts except for Notah Begay picked McIlroy to win the Masters and that McIlroy got a bigger cheer on the first tee when he was introduced even though Reed, a Texan, played college golf just up the road and led Augusta State to back-to-back NCAA championships and is an honorary local.

“Thanks, Notah,” Reed said jokingly. “You’re my man.”

Actually, Reed does care about those things. He wouldn’t have mentioned them otherwise. Like everything else in his me-against-the-world battle, he adds perceived slights to the already big chip on his shoulder. It stokes his fire. He’s like Vijay Singh, too, in that he doesn’t like things that get in the way of golf. 

Reed rubbed players and media the wrong way when he won that Cadillac Championship at Doral and said he thought he was “a top-5 player in the world.” He was no such thing at the time. He probably meant that he thought he had the ability to become a top-5 player in the world, but that wasn’t how it came out. Despite being given multiple chances to recant or revise that statement, he refused to do so.

After this victory, his first major and one achieved in impressive fashion after his nine-birdie performance Saturday, he just might be a top-5 player in the world, although the projections for the Official World Golf Ranking had him at No. 11. No matter.

Reed may be hard to like. Floyd the competitor and Seve Ballesteros the intimidator and Hogan, of course, were never exactly lovable winners. But they were wonders to watch.

Reed plays a more interesting game than most. He earned the Captain America nickname for being a match-play powerhouse in the Ryder and Presidents cups. He put a target on his back in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland when he shushed the crowd with a finger to his lips – a common move in American sporting arenas but an unwelcome gesture to the Scottish gallery. He wasn’t afraid of that crowd just like he wasn’t afraid of that fallout.

Reed loves confrontation, and that was the backstory to Sunday’s finale here. He and McIlroy played the most memorable Ryder Cup of the century two years ago at Hazeltine, where the U.S. finally recaptured the cup. You probably remember the scenes: McIlroy screaming, Reed wagging a not-so-fast finger at him, and the rest. Reed knocked off Europe’s best when it counted, and that may have been the Jenga piece that finally toppled the Europeans.

Fowler and Spieth, who finished second and third, respectively, were disappointed for all of the right reasons. They gave it their all and played their best, but they simply were too far behind Reed to catch up. As Fowler said, Reed doesn’t back down or back up. Not even Spieth’s 64 was good enough.

There was something else hanging in the brisk spring air Sunday night besides disappointment. Trepidation, perhaps? If Reed is going to be a major champion, then it just got that much harder for Spieth and McIlroy and Jason Day and Henrik Stenson and all the rest to win a major championship. 

Reed hits the shot he has to hit when he has to hit it. That’s Hogan-like. Reed plays a right-to-left draw but repeatedly used an Arnold Palmer-esque helicopter follow-through to make his tee shots move left to right, such as at Nos. 15 and at 18. He had to play against form, and Sunday, when the Masters was on the line and he needed a par to win – he knew it because he’d heard the roar when Fowler drained a clutch birdie putt at 18 to make Reed earn this victory – Reed executed it perfectly. 

It all came down to a 3-footer for the Masters, and Reed sank it as easily as if he were pouring syrup on a waffle.

Reed chugged toward the scoring area, where Fowler was waiting. Reed smiled and chided him, saying, “You had to make birdie [at 18].” They laughed, Fowler offered his congratulations, and Reed brushed past after a light man-hug. 

Fowler looked at Reed’s back as he headed toward the scoring area to sign his card. All he saw was a sea of pink.

It probably won’t be the last time.

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email:; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle