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Wednesday, April 9, 2014
AUGUSTA — Its not unusual for Patrick Reed to play well in Augusta. He was a standout player on the golf team at GRU Augusta, which was then known as Augusta State. Reed helped the Jaguars win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2010 and 2011.
Since turning professional, the 23-year-old Reed has emerged as one of the best players on the PGA Tour. He’s currently 23rd in the World Golf Rankings and is second in the FedEx Cup standings – earning 1,343 points and $3,023,091 so far this season. In two-plus years on the PGA Tour, Reed has three wins – including this year at the Humana Challenge and the World Golf Championships’ Cadillac Championship.
Now he’s looking to capitalize on that success as he returns to Augusta to play in The Masters Tournament for the first time.
“It feels like a dream come true. … When I was real young, all I ever dreamed about was playing at Augusta for a green jacket,” Reed said Monday, after the first full practice round of the 78th Masters was cut short by weather conditions and safety concerns. “To have a dream come true and be here as a professional playing my first Masters, feels like I’m still in a dream.”
This isn’t the first time Reed has walked the hallowed grounds at Augusta National Golf Club. He said he got to play the historic course three times during his days with the Jags, an opportunity members often bestow on top amateurs in the CSRA. Reed also said he’s been to The Masters twice – as a patron.
So when he returned to Augusta this weekend to get some practice in at Augusta National, Reed tried to soak in the unique experience and savor the moment.
“Oh, it was amazing,” Reed said of driving down Magnolia Lane, the club’s hallowed entrance reserved only for members, players and distinguished guests. “I wanted to reverse and do it again but I had to keep going so I could get out there and practice. Every time driving down, you get a big smile on your face and you realize that this time it’s different because the first three times I did it was as an amateur and now I’m doing it as a professional playing at Augusta in the Masters.”
Reed will be the focus of much attention as he’ll carry the flag for area golf fans who won’t get to see any area natives – other than 1987 champion Larry Mize – in the field this week. Scott Brown, Kevin Kisner, Charles Howell III and Vaughn Taylor are current PGA and Web.com Tour players who failed to qualify for this year’s Masters.
But Reed is raring to go. He said getting to play in the Masters allows him to scratch an entry off his bucket list. Although he admitted to feeling some nerves when playing Augusta National – including practice rounds on Saturday and Sunday – Reed said that shouldn’t be a factor this week.
“You still get nervous stepping up on the tee whether you’re an amateur playing for the first time and there’s no one around or step up on the tee when there’s thousands of people around,” Reed explained. “I’m very confident. I try to treat it like it’s just another event.”
Reed doesn’t lack for confidence. He made waves a month ago when he said he was one of the top five players in the world. While that comment might not have won him many friends in the locker room, it’s part of Reed’s mindset, to make something positive happen regardless of circumstance.
He said that has helped his development since being a college star and to avoid any feelings of doubt that so frequently cripple top golfers. He said he tries to treat things like it’s just another event at another golf course. He’s trying to do that this week, back in Augusta.
“You have to feel and believe in yourself to be successful, and that’s all it is,” Reed said, citing other athletes who have harnessed their ego into greatness – including Michael Jordan and Gary Player. “I believe in myself and I will hopefully continue playing well and get to that point” of being a top-five player. “I knew if I kept on doing what I was doing in college and kept on progressing as a player, that I would hopefully get to this point.”
Reed is one of more than 20 players making their Masters debut this week. He said his limited experience playing Augusta National doesn’t give him an advantage over any of the other newcomers. But he also didn’t think that Masters veterans would necessarily have a leg up once the tournament begins on Thursday.
He pointed to his limited track record in PGA and WGC events. He explained that his inexperience hasn’t prevented him from significant success.
“Definitely shows that whoever is playing their best golf is going to win. Doesn’t matter if you’ve played here once or if you’ve played here 50 times,” said Reed, who went on to say he feels at home at Augusta National. “I’m very comfortable out here. I like playing a little draw, so it sets up really well for the golf course as well as I’ve worked really hard on being able to hit a controlled cut, as well. … It seems like right now I’m very comfortable and I just have to, like I said, get used to the speeds of the greens because when it comes down to it, it’s going to be who putts the best and who positions the golf ball.”
If Reed does that, mixed with his confidence and track record in Augusta, he’s as likely as any newcomer to don a green jacket on Sunday. While this might be Reed’s first Masters, it definitely shouldn’t be his last. Expect Reed to be a fixture in Augusta for years to come.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.