Masters victory fallout has somehow left Patrick Reed substantially underrated
A 27-year-old American with six wins and a major championship is a big deal
Patrick Reed does not look like the archetype of a golf champion in 2018. His celebrations are goofy. His belly spills over his belt. His swing can most generously (and only recently) be described as "sometimes kind of resembles Arnold Palmer depending on many drinks you've had." He looks less like a world-class athlete than he does the manager of an Applebee's somewhere in the heart of his beloved United States.
His backstory does not help his sometimes-awkward demeanor and presence. As it played out over various platforms in myriad ways minutes after his putt fell to win the 2018 Masters by a stroke over Rickie Fowler, people who don't care about golf but do care about the Masters gobbled up sordid stories that have long been embedded in the minds of us who cover this sport on a weekly basis.
That combination of social interaction with his past made for a pretty bizarre week-long whirlwind that ended last night with Reed attending the Rockets-Timberwolves NBA Playoff game in Houston and .
What's getting lost in all of this? What 27-year-old Patrick Reed has done to this point in his career -- and even at the Masters alone as a singular event -- is pretty remarkable. As they say, ball don't care about archetypes.
Let's look at Augusta first. His 15-under 273 was the seventh-best score in the 82-year history of that tournament. Only (get this) Tiger Woods, Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth have ever triumphed at that course in fewer strokes over four days. That's astonishing. He also came within two strokes on Sunday of becoming the first golfer ever to play all four rounds at Augusta National in the 60s.
That was the latest in a long list of big boy wins from Reed, too. He's won a lot, and he's won consistently. Starting with his 2013 Wyndham Championship victory over Spieth, Reed ran off the Humana Challenge, WGC-Mexico Championship, Tournament of Champions, The Barclays and now a jacket. That's a major, a WGC, a playoff event and three regular wins for someone who has also notched seven (!) points in just two Ryder Cup appearances. The only calendar year lacking a win is 2017.
It is ... and I cannot believe I'm saying this ... a career that is tracking for the hall of fame. All from a guy who a little over eight months ago had never turned in a top 10 at a major championship (the flip side of this fun, nuanced little stat is that he now has top 15s in five of his last seven).
One of the criticisms of Reed (a fair one, at that) is that he's too inconsistent. In only two of his five full years as a PGA Tour pro has he scored more top 10s than missed cuts. This season is no different: four missed cuts and four top 10s. By comparison, Spieth has never even come close to missing as many or more cuts than he has top 10s in a given year.
But then again, nobody actually thinks Reed is as good as Spieth (except for maybe Reed). Where it gets more interesting is when you start looking at Ws, trophies and jackets. Golf is a sport where you would rather have three sublime weeks per year and 17 terrible weeks than 20 above average weeks. Wins matter; not as much as people think, but they do matter.
We're going to take Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Spieth out of the equation because they are all tracking on historically absurd paces, but I want to compare Reed to some names that might surprise you: Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. Reed does not feel or sound like a contemporary of these guys, but the numbers tell a different story.
When it comes to top-five finishes, Reed cannot hang with this group. Through 166 events as a pro, he has just 16 top-five finishes. That's just below 10 percent. Everyone else in this group is at or around 20 percent. Reed is the blue line at the very bottom.
However, when you flip it to wins, Reed shines (he is again the blue line below). Both he and Day won their sixth tournament in their 166th start. I repeat, Reed and Day have had the exact same number of wins through their first 166 starts on the PGA Tour. They were both 27 when they did it. They both had a major, a WGC and a playoff victory. There is a very compelling case to be made that Reed and Day have had the exact same resumes through the exact same number of tournaments (166) if you're only looking at victories.
Reed has doubled up Fowler's win total through 166 (three) and sits three behind Johnson (nine) through the same number of events played. What's going to be interesting going forward is whether Reed can keep pace with what Day and Johnson did following the first 166. Day won four of his next 13, and Johnson won eight of his next 56.
It's easy to make the case that Reed's level of golf has been nowhere near Johnson or Day (or maybe even Fowler) to this point in his career. He's only finished in the top 20 in strokes gained on the PGA Tour for a season one time. He has the same number of top 10s at majors as Shaun Micheel. And yet (and yet!) he has the trophies to disprove all of this.
This is one of my favorite confounding pieces of the golf puzzle. You don't have to be great all the time to win. If you are great all the time, you probably will win a lot. But the measuring stick for success in this sport, especially at the highest level, can be manipulated.
You only have to be great at the right time. Reed, despite not fitting the mold of what we want a golf hero to be, has done that. A lot, actually. It's unfortunate that he's also done a lot of other things that have obscured this reality.
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