The first time I saw Patrick Reed interviewed he declared he was one of the five best golfers in the world.
Naturally I was offended by his brashness, especially coming from a professional golfer who hadn’t won anything of significance, and in a sport where humility is the rule.
Golfers rarely brag and predict triumph because, as we all know who play the game, this is not an endeavor where chest-thumping is wise.
Rory McIlroy hopefully learned his lesson at the Masters. More on that later.
I never was a fan of Reed’s after saying how great a golfer he was several years ago and I had plenty of contenders to support last Sunday as they chased Reed.
I even liked McIlroy, who was seemingly out of character when he said these words leading into the final round: “Patrick has got a three-shot lead; I feel like all the pressure is on him. He’s got to go out and protect that, and he’s got a few guys chasing him that are pretty big-time players. He’s got to deal with and sleep on tonight.
I can go out there and play like I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m really excited to show everyone what I’ve got, show Patrick Reed what I’ve got. The pressure’s on him tomorrow”…Gulp!
As it turned out, McIlroy, teamed with Reed in the final group, missed a putt on the second hole that would have made up the three-stroke deficit quickly.
That’s as close as he got. The Irishman faded as others charged forward.
Jordan Spieth was the most amazing. Nine shots back going in, Spieth, a former Masters champion and perennial challenger, forged into a tie after a birdie on 13.
But Reed answered with a birdie of his own on 14 and held off the crowd of contenders to win.
Rickie Fowler has now become the darling of those who love the bridesmaid. A fan-favorite who is still looking for his first major. Fowler, as he put it, made “Reed earn it”, with a birdie on 18, but Reed got his par with a difficult two-putt and did precisely that.
Fowler was there to greet Reed after his victory. Nothing new for Rickie who has made a habit of being so supportive. He stays on the scene to urge on many of his fellow competitors. Another big reason he is so popular.
I did some research on the 27-year old Patrick Reed beyond knowing that he was an uplifting leader who delivered with a great performance for the United States in the last Ryder Cup. I was not wrong in failing to embrace the native-Texan when I saw his lack of humility in that interview a few years ago.
He has had his problems. At the University of Georgia he was expelled after one semester. His brash attitude turned off teammates. Worse, he had trouble with the law.
He transferred to Augusta State, and continued to have issues with his teammates. But he led the small commuter school to two consecutive NCAA championships.
The first, against his former school, Georgia, the second against perennial national-power Oklahoma State.
Like him or not, Patrick Reed played brilliantly on golf’s biggest stage, successfully holding off big-time threats from big-time players.
He hadn’t finished in the top 10 in his first 15 majors, but he came back to Augusta National to earn his way into history.
Funny, but when I witnessed his reaction and demeanor following his victory, I thought I detected a different attitude from Reed.
It looked to me that something washed over the champion. Perhaps, the Masters triumph was a wake-up call to a golfer who has, unquestionably, been cut from a different mold.
Maybe we’ll be seeing a “different” Patrick Reed.
And it may not even matter.
But when it was all over, I seemed to appreciate the man.
Allowing for the fact that he may not be like most of the others. He is, in one, respect. Amongst the very best golfers in the game.
Watching the green jacket ceremony in the Butler Cabin after the final round, I saw the recognition of the low amateur performer, a Masters tradition.
He was a young man named, Doug Ghim, a 21-year old senior at the University of Texas who broke several records, including being the first amateur since 1959 to record three Eagles at the Augusta National event.
Fred Ridley, Chairman Augusta National Golf Club and Doug Ghim
When asked his plans, Ghim proudly announced he was returning to Austin to try to help Texas capture the national championship next season.
Someone who is not planning to help his team win a national title is Darius Bazley, who was slated to become one of several high-caliber recruits to the Syracuse University basketball team next season.
Bazley, a 6’ 8˝ blue-chip prospect from Cincinnati, has decided to by-pass college and move straight to the NBA’s G-League, the developmental league to help prepare players for a pro career.
Now, this is not a criticism of Bazley’s decision.
Rather, it is an alarming chord struck at what we’ve been accustomed to in college basketball.
We know all about the one-and-done practice of top players coming to play one season of college ball before declaring for the draft.
In many instances, players don’t even bother to attend classes.
Because Bazley’s intention and dream is to play in the NBA, he is wiser to totally skip college, where he has said he has no desire to attend classes, and instead earn the $100,000 salary players in the G League receive.
There, he believes, he will get the coaching necessary for him to develop into a prime draft prospect the following year.
In a way, it is hard to argue with him.
Even Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s great head coach, has suggested players do the same, and just move on to their professional dreams.
It’s happened all the time in baseball.
But you have to wonder what life would be like, living in apartments in towns like Grand Rapids, Canton, Fort Wayne, Erie etc. for a 17-year old.
Only time will tell whether this practice will grow.
On the other hand, you also wonder whether we may be seeing more of an influx of highly-talented high school players deciding they want to experience college life, and grow as people and as basketball players.
That would be the ideal, wouldn’t it?
Right now, though, the decision of Darius Bazley, to skip college altogether, and begin his professional basketball career in the minor leagues is a bit shocking, and bears watching.
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