Patrick Reed’s victory at the 2018 Masters was as impressive as it was surprising. Never before had he finished inside the top 20 at Augusta, so you could excuse us – and everyone else – for wondering how he tamed a course that had given so little back. We sat down with the Ryder Cup star to find out how he did it and get his guide to the famous course.
Patrick Reed knew he was going to win the Masters long before anyone else did. Never mind things like nerves or a slender one-shot advantage. Finding the fairway off the 18th tee on Sunday was enough to convince him that the job was done.
“I knew at that point the tournament was over,” the 30-year-old tells us. “I knew I was hitting my irons well and putting well, so that was an absolutely amazing and fun walk off that tee box.”
Some might mistake such confidence for arrogance, but Reed merely shrugs at the suggestion. Such bravado has made him one of the most polarising characters in golf, and yet he seems to revel in playing the pantomime villain.
Few would dare to shush crowds or rant and rave about their Ryder Cup team-mates publicly, let alone be bold enough to call themselves “Captain America” or a “top-five player” in the world at the age of 23. But Reed cares little for what people think.
He is estranged from his parents and since he cultivates few friends on tour, he almost exclusively plays practice rounds on his own.
Such reclusive tendencies mean he’s unlikely to win a popularity contest any time soon, so you can imagine our hesitancy – and surprise – when golf’s greatest enigma agreed to provide us with a course guide of Augusta.
We expected someone curt, aloof and egotistical, but what we got was a pleasant, engaging and, dare we say, very likeable individual.
If it was an act, it was perhaps second only to his Masters masterclass as his greatest performance. But more likely, there is more than meets the eye to someone whose will to win is as admirable as it is suffocating.
It does mean that he sometimes takes his frustration out on others, often to the detriment of his reputation and relationships with fans and fellow golfers. But to criticise him for saying what he thinks does strike of double standards, especially as that’s what we ask and want of every golfer.
Rory McIlroy would likely sympathise, and happily trade positions if it meant owning a Green Jacket. Only last year, Rory said that he thinks Reed is “sometimes misunderstood” and after spending 45 minutes in his company, we’re inclined to agree...
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What is it about Augusta that makes it so tough?
The funny thing is, I always used to watch the Masters on TV and thought, the slopes don’t look that bad. But I remember when I first turned up, being taken aback by the terrain, how hilly it is, and the number of slopes there are. The TV does it no justice at all.
The crazy thing about Augusta is that there’s no one hole you can actually relax on. You have to be fully engaged and focused on every shot. You can have the perfect game plan and know what to do on every hole, but you’ve got to execute the shots.
It’s hard to aim away from flags, but there are some holes where you’ve got a pitching wedge or 9-iron in your hand and are purposely trying to hit it to 30 feet away from the pin so it rolls towards the flag. It’s hard mentally to think that way. So many times I’ve gone right at the flag, seen my ball land six feet from the hole and watched it roll to 30 feet, leaving me with an impossible putt.
One of the keys to your success was playing the par 5s in 13-under par. Do you feel like that’s where the tournament is won or lost?
The par 5s are massive at Augusta. If the wind is favourable, two is reachable. The same with eight if it’s downwind. Thirteen is reachable, no matter what the wind is doing, and 15 is technically reachable in certain directions. That’s probably the hardest one to get to and keep the ball on the green.
But you have to play well on the par 5s to have a chance. They’re technically supposed to be the easy holes, and there are plenty of others out there which are very difficult and leave you scrambling to make pars on. So, you make up your shots by playing the par 5s well. That was the important thing when I won; hitting the ball straight off tees on the par 5s and being able to attack from the fairway. From there, getting the ball either on the green or close to it enabled me to make the occasional eagle and lots of stress-free birdies.
Half the battle is getting off the tee at Augusta. What happened to me on Sunday is that I overdrew my opening tee shot and hit it in the left trees. What Augusta does so well is that the trees are cut so you can feed the ball underneath them. But when you’re playing a low runner, the greens are so hard and slopey that keeping the ball on them is almost impossible.
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Patrick Reed's Augusta National course guide