AUGUSTA, Ga. – He considered backing up, then thought better of it.
No, not this bit about being “a top five player.” Instead, Patrick Reed talked about his first drive down Magnolia Lane.
“It was amazing. I wanted to reverse and do it again, but I had to keep going so I could get out there and practice,” said Reed, one of 24 first-timers in the 2014 Masters.
He earned his Masters invite with his win at the Wyndham Championship last August, but just for good measure Reed has added another pair of victories in 2013-14. It was after his most recent triumph, the Cadillac Championship in early March, when the 23-year-old boldly stated that he was a “top five” player in the world.
No, he’s not jamming it into reverse on that one.
“You have to feel and believe in yourself to be successful,” said Reed. “That’s all it is. I believe in myself and hopefully continue playing well and get to that point.”
Much was made of Reed’s comment, but he has shrugged it off – at least the stuff in a negative shade. He did take note of the positive material, though. “Michael Jordan had nothing bad to say about it (nor did) Gary Player (or) Henrik Stenson. (A lot) of top athletes don’t have a problem with it.”
Put the comment aside, Reed’s berth in the 78th Masters should gather more attention for the circuitous route in which he has traveled. Though born and raised in Texas, his golf roots are firmly planted in Georgia – first at the University of Georgia, then at Augusta State, not far from Augusta National Golf Club. In fact, during his time Augusta State, which won back-to-back NCAA championships during Reed’s time, he got to play Augusta National three times.
After practice rounds Saturday and Sunday, Reed compared the experience now as a Masters competitor compared to those times when he was in town as a collegian.
“That only thing that seems different is the greens are a lot firmer and a lot faster,” said Reed. “When I played (in college) it was still in absolutely perfect conditions, and it still is now. I just have to get used to the speed (of the greens).”
Since winning at Doral, Reed has played just once in four weeks, a T-52 at Bay Hill. He took off the last two weeks, including his hometown event, the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, and feels rested and ready for his first Masters. No surprise, he’s undaunted by the storyline that carries into every edition of this precious tournament, that first-timers don’t win here.
It’s happened just three times, but the first two occasions were circumstantial. Craig Woods was a Masters rookie in 1934 because the tournament was making its debut. And in 1935, Gene Sarazen was playing for the first time, having bypassed it in 1934. The only true first-timer to win was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
None of which fazes Reed, who focused on the 24 rookies who are here this week.
“Definitely shows that whoever is playing their best golf is going to win,” said Reed. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve played here once or if you’ve played here 50 times. When it comes down to it, it’s just going to be one of those things that whoever is playing the best is going to walk away with the trophy.”
History disagrees with him, but by now it’s clear to see that Reed has his own mindset, that he is one determined young man.
And thus far, it’s hard to argue with the route he is on.