A Sports Moment
By Don Stenson
A small city in the state of Georgia is the most famous location for golf during the first week of April. Actually, it is the most famous location in the United States. The city of Augusta is the host of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. It is one of the tournaments where legends are made. Jack Nicklaus has won it six times. Tiger Woods has won it four times. Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer have won it three times. It’s also the place where “one hit wonders” are made legends such as Larry Mize, Charl Schwartzel, Danny Willet, and Ian Woosnam. This year there was a lot of buzz because it was the return of Tiger Woods. It was also the possible coronation of the career Grand Slam for Rory McIlroy. Could Sergio Garcia repeat as champion, being the first since Woods in 2001-02? Would Rickie Fowler finally break through with his first major victory?
After Thursday’s opening round of 66 by Jordan Spieth, it seemed like the young star was going to claim his second green jacket. He had a stroke lead over Tony Finau, who dislocated his ankle the day before. He was celebrating a hole-in-one on the Par 3 contest. Somehow, he managed to turn that mishap into an early charge. After Friday’s round was in the books, it was Patrick Reed’s turn to shoot a round of 66. It propelled him to the top of the leaderboard. Marc Leishman was playing with Tiger Woods and apparently, it helped him. He shot a 67 on Friday to add his name to the leaders. Saturday is considered moving day. That’s when players make their moves up the leaderboard to put themselves in position to win on Sunday. One player did just that, Reed. He had a score of -14 headed to Sunday. Right behind him was McIlroy at -11. He mentioned that all the pressure was on Reed. He felt that it was much harder to try to hold the lead than play from behind. Reed was also the “hometown” boy.
Reed was born in Texas but he played golf at the University of Georgia until he was kicked off the team. After that, he went to Augusta State where he was nearly voted off that team. He was arrested for underage drinking and constantly getting into it with his teammates. It even involved an alleged cheating infraction during a tournament. It didn’t stop him from helping Augusta State win back-to-back NCAA National Championship titles in 2010-11. Would the pressure of the moment be too great for Reed? Every golf expert except Notah Begay picked McIlroy to win. No one felt that Reed could handle the moment. Reed admitted he watched and listened to all the experts on why he couldn’t win it. He said that took the pressure off him and put it on McIlroy.
Sunday finally came, Reed’s opening tee shot landed near a tree, and he bogeyed the first hole. You could see all the experts applauding themselves because they saw this coming. McIlroy managed to save par on his opening hole; it was only a two shot lead. McIlroy missed an easy eagle putt on hole number two and settled for a birdie. The lead was down to one stroke. This is where Reed could have folded under pressure. He calmly birdied hole number three and McIlroy bogeyed. It was back to a three-stroke lead. McIlroy birdied only two of his final 16 holes and never was a factor. Reed got a huge break on hole 13. His second shot stayed up on the bank of the creek and never went in. He was able to salvage a par and not lose a stroke. He needed that because Spieth was getting closer and closer on the final nine holes. He shot the best closing round at The Masters ever, an eight under score. Reed mentioned that he constantly watched the leaderboard throughout the round. He knew what Spieth was doing but kept optimistic because he had to play those holes eventually. It wasn’t just Spieth, but Fowler, that Reed had to keep at bay. Fowler played the final seven holes four under par and birdied the 18th to move to within one stroke of Reed.
On the final hole, Reed took a page out of Palmer’s book and hit a corkscrew swing to find the fairway. His second shot landed about 24 feet past the hole. It was going to be a difficult downhill two putt for par to win. He was seen begging his initial putt to slow down as it rolled past the hole. He had a three-foot putt to win his first green jacket. He calmly stood over the putt and made it! The 27-year old won his sixth PGA Tour victory and a green jacket.
The custom is to be welcomed with a round of applause from the crowd, but that wasn’t the case. It was more of polite golf clap. The cameras began to pan for the wife and the family to give a huge kiss and hug to. It was just Reed’s wife, Justine. Nothing about this seemed right. Reed’s parents live three miles away from Augusta National. They had to celebrate at home because they have not spoken to their son since he got married six years ago, an occasion they were not invited to. Reed’s wife use to be his caddie until she got pregnant with their first child. She was there when he won his first PGA Tour win in 2013 at the Wyndham Championship over Spieth. It was in 2014 at the U.S. Open that she reportedly had Reed’s parents removed from the tournament because they were a distraction. When asked if his family's absence made Sunday's triumph bittersweet, Reed said, "I'm just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments." He is now a Master’s champion and Augusta legend, it remains to be seen if it will be a “one hit wonder” or not.