AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s all setting up perfectly for Patrick Reed on Sunday at the 82nd Masters, except maybe for the wardrobe.
Reed will have to imagine that he’s cloaked in red, white and blue, perhaps adding a flowing cape for good measure. For years Reed has donned red in the final round of tournaments, in homage of Tiger Woods, but Nike has apparently reserved Sunday red for the man himself.
Instead, Reed will wear azalea pink, a color that does pair nicely with Augusta green.
And while the final round of the most anticipated Masters in recent memory will feature a rematch of the 2016 Ryder Cup, where Reed birdied the 18th for a sensational 1-up singles victory over Rory McIlroy, there will be no Team USA threads. (Though on Saturday Reed did use a Ryder Cup umbrella.)
As the confident, free-wheeling McIlroy looks to complete the career grand slam, Reed, who holds a three-stroke lead over the Irishman, looks to emulate that Ryder Cup bravado to snatch his first major title.
“He really feels like he’s Captain America,” swing coach Kevin Kirk said. “If he could dress in red, white and blue every day, he’s all about it. That persona lines up with kind of who he thinks he is.”
Even so, Reed wasn’t buying into the mano-a-mano manuscript.
“I’m not out there to play Rory,” he said after polishing off a smooth 5-under 67. “I’m out there to play the golf course.”
While the Ryder Cup has elevated Reed’s persona as a professional, he built a reputation as a match-play titan in college three miles away from Augusta National. Reed went 6-0 in leading Augusta University (formerly Augusta State) to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2010 and ’11. While the community stopped short of a ticker-tape parade, there was a police escort when they got back to town and a luncheon at Augusta National hosted by Billy Payne, followed by golf.
“Now looking back on it, I don’t know how in the hell we did it,” said former Augusta State coach Josh Gregory, who still works with Reed as his performance coach.
A Division II commuter school with a $30,000 operating budget taking down the likes of Georgia and Oklahoma State was about as likely as Loyola-Chicago winning back-to-back NCAA basketball titles, Gregory said.
Chalk part of that up to the brashness and self-belief of Reed, who took a similar mentality into the Ryder Cup, where his overall record is 6-1-2.
The best thing Reed can do on Sunday at Augusta is imagine he’s back at Hazeltine, taking on McIlroy for God and Country. No one has won the Masters by shooting four rounds in the 60s. Don’t be surprised if Reed is bold enough to be the first.
“When he looks at himself in the mirror,” said Kirk, “he thinks I’m the guy that wins majors. It’s just a matter of getting it manifest. He’s not afraid of it. There’s probably a handful people that will not push away from the table in those big moments. He’ll drive the car off the cliff with his foot on the gas, not on brake.”
After busting out a 2016 Ryder Cup umbrella to combat the rain on Amen Corner, Reed made the first of two eagles on the back nine, rolling in a putt from 14 feet on the 13th and chipping in for eagle from 27 yards on the 15th.
McIlroy expects the vibe on Sunday to be different from a Ryder Cup and was quick to point out that it’s not yet a two-horse race with Rickie Fowler five back and Jon Rahm six behind. Still, all the pressure, he said, is on Reed.
“I’m hoping to spoil the party,” McIlroy said.
Rest assured, however, that McIlroy will not be playing the role of spoiler. He’s not from around here, as they say, but the Rory roars were fierce on Saturday, even on holes where patrons were simply reacting to a change on the scoreboard.
It’s an educated crowd, not a partisan one. Masters fans appreciate history, and only five men have ever completed the career grand slam: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
How will Sunday at the Masters feel different than Sunday at the Ryder Cup?
“It will be calmer,” Reed said. “There’s a lot of stuff that you can do at Ryder Cup that you can’t do at Augusta National. It’s going to be — you’re talking about polar opposites. You’re talking about a match‑play tournament and you’re talking about a major championship. It’s going to be electrifying. The fans are going to be ready to go, they are going to be ready to cheer for whoever is making putts, whoever is making birdies or pulling off shots. It’s just going to be one of those days you just need to go out and be able to put your nose to the grind and just play some golf.”