For Patrick Reed, great golf and controversy still go hand in hand
Yes, he knows, thank you very much. There's no reason to point it out time and again. Yet it's a constant theme in interviews with Patrick Reed, who should be known for his 2018 Masters victory, his consecutive NCAA titles, and his other accomplishments.
Instead, the Augusta State product is recognized as the center of controversy on the PGA Tour, a talented but maligned rapscallion, and questions about his character and integrity seem to follow him to nearly every Tour stop.
"You're probably the most scrutinized guy on the Tour with talk about your image and reputation. Are you comfortable with everything?" the question came during the recent WGC-Dell Match Play event in Austin, Texas.
"It is what it is."
"It doesn't bother you?"
The scrutiny that comes Reed's way only seems to intensify his focus. As he prepares for his eighth appearance at the Masters – a top-10 finish in last fall's event fresh in his rearview mirror – Reed isn't talking about legacy, majors or even about a second green jacket.
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Firmly entrenched in the Official World Golf Ranking top 10, Reed is simply focused on his next shot. And that strategy seems to keep working for him.
"There's a good bit of times guys will make a heck of a birdie on a hole and they'll follow it up with a bogey because they get too hyped up and they'll get too focused on what happened in the past when you should be always trying to stay in the present," Reed said. "I've been a firm believer of that in golf that you should try to focus on every single shot that you have then and there, not what shots are coming up.
"You never get ahead of yourself."
One piece of Reed's game that continues to evolve is his putting. As he heads "home" to Augusta for the 2021 Masters, Reed is atop the PGA Tour in Shots Gained: Putting this season, leading him to seven top-25 finishes in nine starts. Missed cuts at the American Express and the Arnold Palmer Invitational are the only blips on this campaign's scorecard.
That same mentality has bolstered his putting – blocking out the bad while rolling with the good. He insisted he's far more concerned with the shot at hand than looking back at his recent string of play.
"There are obviously times when if you're talking to your caddie, say we have 175 (yards), same type of wind direction that was, say, four holes ago and about the same yardage – that was an 85 percent 8-iron and it ended up here, so you can use that as strategies," he said. "But you're not sitting there and either being really excited about the four birdies you just had or being disappointed and down on yourself because you made whether a silly bogey or a double or a couple bogeys here or there.
"You always have to seem to stay in the present and forget about the good things and also bad things so you can basically put all your energy in each shot you're hitting."
But still, the questions will come: like in January when Reed alerted his playing partners at the Farmers Insurance Open that he was going to check if his ball was embedded. He picked up the ball, put his finger into a hole in the ground, and decided the ball was embedded. Then he called for a rules official, and Reed was allowed to take a free drop. He made par on the hole and went on to win the tournament.
But it's those lingering moments that only seem to sharpen his mental approach.
"I think the biggest thing is really it seemed like there are times throughout golf you kind of get tunnel vision, everything seems to just kind of flow. Then there's times obviously you have the ups and downs of golf where you start hitting some loose shots," he said. "And it seems like the times you win, you get kind of those 50/50 balls, a couple of those up and down, but then at the same time it's those weeks where you're able to kind of mentally forget the good runs but also forget the bad runs.
"You should still make a game plan for how you want to play that golf course and stay in the moment. I think that's the biggest thing is it seems like the times that you are able to pull off the win and times that you fall short, sometimes you get too caught up in the moment and push too hard in certain areas or save a lead rather than what got you to that point, which is kind of put your head down and grind and go ahead and attack the golf course on your strategy."