Patrick Reed returns to Greensboro, N.C., this week, where a shot out of the weeds last August launched a meteoric career trajectory.
As 12-month windows go, few in golf other than Rory McIlroy could match Reed’s for overall value. It would be fair to say his last year ranks “top five.”
There were three victories – including a World Golf Championship event – starting in Greensboro. There was the birth of his first daughter in May. There was his first spin in all four major championships.
Then, to crown it all off, there was confirmation of his qualification onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
“It’s amazing,” Reed said of all the things that have come his way since making a birdie from a bed of ivy vines at the Wyndham Championship to beat Jordan Spieth in a playoff. “A lot has happened in a year – really two years ago from Monday qualifying to winning my first tournament here last year. It’s happened pretty fast.”
It has certainly been an eventful ride to the top tier in golf – where Reed famously stated he belongs among the top five in the world after his wire-to-wire victory over an elite WGC field at Doral. He currently ranks 26th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Reed is among the top Americans, as his inclusion on the Ryder Cup team verified. He hung onto the ninth and final automatic spot by a narrow margin over Zach Johnson – though the 2007 Masters Tournament winner gets in because Dustin Johnson is taking a leave of absence from golf and will not participate.
“I just found out right after the PGA that I made the team, so I haven’t had a lot of time to process it and think that far ahead,” he said of the marquee international team matches Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles in Scotland. “I’m just excited to be a part of it and get a chance to represent my country.”
Reed is the third former Augusta State golfer to qualify to play in the past five Ryder Cups, following Vaughn Taylor for the American side in 2006 and Oliver Wilson for the European team in 2008. It’s a remarkable streak for a relatively small college, tied with perennial power Oklahoma State for placing the most different players in that same span.
“That’s pretty cool, I didn’t know about that,” Reed said. “It just shows that if you work hard it doesn’t matter where you come from.”
Before his victory at Sedgefield Country Club last year, the Ryder Cup wasn’t even a remote possibility for the guy who turned 24 before last week’s PGA Championship.
“When you get out here there are two things you dream about – playing in the major championships and playing for the Ryder Cup,” Reed said. “I can’t believe in only two years on the PGA Tour I’ve already managed to achieve both. It’s very exciting.”
He’ll join 21-year-old Spieth and fellow three-time tour winner this season, Jimmy Walker, as rookies on the U.S. team. Tom Watson has three captain’s picks to hand out and could consider another rookie, but it’s fair to say the Americans will be decided underdogs in Scotland regardless.
That’s fine with Reed, who relished that role in compiling a perfect 6-0 match-play record in back-to-back NCAA title runs for the Jaguars in 2010-11.
“I was an underdog two years in a row in the NCAA championships and handled that,” Reed said. “I like being the underdog. There really are no underdogs at this level. Everybody on both teams are great players.”
Reed certainly brings a dogged tenacity to the American side. He has a flair for getting under his peers’ skins, as the reaction to his “top five” remarks illustrated. But he also has a knack for winning head-to-head matches as his NCAA record and a semifinal run in the 2008 U.S. Amateur attests.
What does he hope to offer the U.S. side?
“Really, just points,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about is getting points for the team and hopefully I can bring that and help fire our team up.”
Reed doesn’t believe the pressure of the partisan atmosphere will be anything he can’t handle. He believes he’s dealt with enough pressure to be ready for the unique environment.
“I know there will be some nerves – that’s going to happen,” he said. “But more than nerves it’s going to be excitement. I’m excited to get out there and play for my country and see what it’s like.
“One of the most stressful things I’ve ever played was our first Monday qualifier, and the second most stressful thing I’ve ever played was Q School. So playing in both of those, once I got to the PGA Tour event … to me that almost seemed like a breeze compared to 100 something golfers, four spots, 18 holes and a golf course you really haven’t ever seen before and you have to go out and play.”
He admits that the stress of trying to cling to a Ryder Cup berth got to him at the PGA, where he shot 73 on Sunday and tied for 59th as he kept an eye on Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Ryan Palmer on the scoreboards.
“I was so focused on what Zach was doing and what all these other guys were doing on that final round that I wasn’t able to play golf,” he said. “You know, it’s definitely a learning experience, and I’ll definitely learn from that.”
For now, Reed returns to his tour comfort zone in a place where he held off Spieth in a playoff.
“It really jump-started my career, that’s for sure,” he said of his maiden victory. “Playing really well here, and actually being able to cap it off and win, it led to me being able to play very well for almost a full year in a row and hopefully that will continue.”