Patrick Reed: "I really don't care what people say about me"

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"I want people to know who I am,” says Patrick Reed. He shouldn’t have too many concerns on that front. The 25-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, only turned pro four years ago, but his short career has already made countless headlines, cementing his role as golf’s biggest bad boy. 

He’s been accused of cheating in college events and stealing from fellow students. He was expelled from his first college after two arrests for underage drinking, forced to apologise after directing a profanity-laced homophobic slur at himself following a three-putt during a PGA Tour event in Shanghai, and became the pantomime villain at Gleneagles after repeatedly antagonising the home fans. 

But, of course, those headlines don’t tell the full story, and Reed’s on-course performances are reason enough for people to know his name. After making his PGA Tour debut in 2011, Reed secured starts in 12 events during 2012, mainly through the incredibly competitive Monday pre-qualifying. Having earned those spots, he proved he warranted them, making seven cuts and taking home over $300,000. At the end of that season, he went through every round of Q School to secure a PGA Tour card for 2013, when he would win his first title – the Wyndham Championship in a play-off against a little-known fellow Texan going by the name of Jordan Spieth. 

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2014 saw two more wins – the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where Reed beat Bubba Watson and Jamie Donaldson by one shot – and a dominant performance at the Humana Challenge, where Reed set a PGA Tour record for most strokes under par through 54 holes. Three rounds of 63 saw him 27-under-par on Saturday evening. Those victories made Reed only the fifth golfer to earn three PGA Tour wins before his 24th birthday, joining Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. You can since add Jordan Spieth’s name to that list, of course. 

But Reed is not content being a footnote amongst big names. He has a burning desire to be the main man, and anyone who stands in his way should be prepared for one hell of a fight.

In March 2014, Reed was widely ridiculed for announcing, "I'm one of the top five players in the world". At that point, he was outside the top-20. He's now just entered the top-10 for the first time, and the top five comment is looking less and less like a laughable boast and more and more like a premonition.

We caught up with Reed after the third-round of the BMW Championship. While most of us would be pretty content having signed for a 69, Reed went straight to the range for 45 minutes honing his game. Satisfied with his work, he was in relaxed but focused mood as he chatted about everything from beating Spieth, past controversies, Ryder Cups, and mac and cheese… 

You’re regarded as one of the fiercest competitors out there. Where did that will to win come from? 

Probably from when I was growing up. Back then I hated to lose at anything. When you grow up, the older kids are beating up on you. You’re 13 and still growing, but you’re playing against 15 year olds and they’re a lot bigger and stronger than you. I got my butt kicked in the beginning and that gave me that drive to want to succeed, to win and prove to myself that I can play. Now I’m trying to beat up on my friends on the Tour. I’d like to go back and play a couple of the guys that beat up on me when they were 15. I’m sure it would be a different result now. 

What are your goals for next season?

I just need to compete in more Majors. I’ve played in eight but only competed in one of them – the US Open this year. I think I finished inside the top-25 in three of them this year, and 30th in the other one, but besides the US Open I wasn’t really close. I wasn’t in a position where if I went out and had a good Sunday I’d have a chance to win. I would have had to go out and blitz the field in order to have any chance. 

Is your game strong enough to win one?

I need to compete a little bit more to get me in that position. I believe if you put yourself in the position enough times, you’re going to close out some of them. I just need to get myself into that position first. This was only my second full year of playing in the Majors, so I’m not disappointed in how I finished in them, but they could have been a lot better. That’s something I need to work on and hopefully in 2016 I can compete in them and maybe close one out. 

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What do you need to do to compete at that level?

I’m close to that level, it’s just minor things here and there. Some days my putting is not where it needs to be or my ball-striking isn’t at its best. You can’t miss a tonne of putts from inside 20 feet, especially in Majors. 

The one thing I learned at the US Open is that US Opens are hard. You can’t go in with the attitude that ‘I’m going to attack every flag and shoot 50-under’.  That’s what I did on the Saturday and it really bit me. If I had only shot even-par on the weekend I would have either won or tied and gone into a play-off. I just didn’t have the experience to realise that. I thought I needed to continue shooting under par, but really all I had to do was shoot even. If I’d known that, I’d have played a completely different game. 

Can you be the best in the world and reach world number one?

I’ve got a lot to go to get to that point. You have to win a Major. I’m a firm believer that you have to win a Major to be a real number one player in the world. I don’t really look at the official rankings to see who’s number one on that. You have some guys who play 60 or 65 events in two years, while some only play 40.

Is there one Major that stands out as your best chance?

I love the Claret Jug, just because of the history behind it. But I try to treat them all the same. No tournament is more important than any other. If you go into a tournament thinking it’s more important, all of a sudden you’re psyching yourself out, thinking ‘I need to play well here’. 

What are your thoughts on the controversy that’s surrounded you?

There’s always going to be haters in this world. You’re going to run into people who are hating on you or jealous of you – that’s just the way it is. I really don’t care what people say about me, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. I’m out there to do what I do, and that’s play golf and provide for my family. All I can do is control me and hopefully improve on me, not only on the golf course but as a person. If I feel like I’m doing the correct things in my life then there’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

Are you more careful about what you say now?

When the cameras are on, players can’t really be themselves because they might get in trouble. I’m always myself, even when I’m around the camera, so I sometimes get in trouble. That’s just who I am. I want people to know who I am. I’m not hiding behind a politically correct figure, trying to be something I’m not just so I don’t get into trouble. 

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You don’t seem as concerned with diet and the gym as most Tour pros these days?

Rib-eye steaks, mac and cheese, and Coca Cola – that’s my style. No workouts. I don’t remember the last time I touched the gym. My caddie touches the gym more than I do!
I figure if he’s in there twice as much as everybody out here, we’re balancing it out as a team. 

Do you think the future will be dominated by Spieth and McIlroy – or will there be other names in the mix?

I see myself there. As I keep improving, I see myself in the mix every week. 

There’s so many guys. There used to be 10 guys in the field that had a chance of winning, but now it’s 40-50. 

I lost count of how many times last year I saw names at the top of the leaderboard and asked myself, ‘Who are they?’ That shows you how deep golf is and how much deeper it’s getting. It’s awesome, not only for us out here competing but for the future of the game around the world. 

What’s your career highlight so far?

Getting my first win (2013 Wyndham Championship). Your first win is always special, and especially having my wife, Justine, on the bag – that was the most memorable moment. Playing against Jordan in the play-off, it felt like we were playing in our amateur days. 

Also, how well I played at the Ryder Cup. Any time you get to represent your country it’s cool. I was proud to be able to qualify for it, and to play the way I did felt really good. 

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Who do you look up to? [Ed’s note: At this point Phil Mickelson enters the locker room where we’ve been interviewing Reed]

Phil Mickelson. He sure seems to know what the hell he’s doing when it comes to Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups.  Or he just knows how to schmooze the right people when it comes to being picked for the team – I don’t know what it is!

When you first play in the Ryder Cup, you think it’s all about beating the other side, but people like Phil and Jim Furyk help you understand what those events really mean. It’s about building a bond and building a family, having a group of guys out there that stick together, go out and have a good time and hopefully play some good golf. 

How do you rate Team USA’s chances at Hazeltine next year?

I feel like we were close last year, but we just got killed in the alternate shot format. The biggest way to get back our chance is to improve in that format. We just can’t let them take such an advantage in those sessions. 

They didn’t really outplay Jordan and I – we went out there and just killed it – but as a team, they outplayed us, for sure. 

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How is your relationship with European golf fans after shushing them during the 2014 Ryder Cup?

They loved it. I was shocked. I thought I’d be getting beer cans thrown at me, but no, they loved it. All I heard all day was ‘shhh’ as I walked past fans. I actually had a huge following a couple of weeks later when I played in London for the Volvo Matchplay. They loved the fire and passion I showed for the game, and it’s good to see that because those fans truly understand what good golf really is. 

Where do you stand on golf's bad boy, Patrick Reed? Love him? Or loathe him? Let us know in the comments below.