During last week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, Patrick Reed commented that he believed himself to be one of the top golfers in the world, effectively dropping the jaws of the golf community.
“I firmly believe as well as my swing coach and my whole team that’s behind me that I’m a top-five player in the world,” said Reed. “If I do what I’m supposed to and play how I’m supposed to, that if I’m playing the best I can that week than I can’t be beat.”
Eyebrows raised, the community watched to see if Reed would have to eat his words. Instead of seeing him fall, they watched the 24-year-old compete in a field filled with the top players in the world on Sunday afternoon, until he became the youngest player in history to win a World golf Championship event.
Not quite finished with his Muhammed Ali impression, Reed went on to say in his post-round interview with NBC, “I’ve won a lot in junior career. Did great things in amateur career. Was 6-0 in match play in NCAAs. Won NCAAs two years in a row. Got third individually one year, and now I have three wins out here on the PGA Tour. I just don’t see a lot of guys that have done that, I mean besides from Tiger Woods of course, and then all the other legends of the game, but it’s just one of those things that I believe in myself, and especially with how I have worked, that I’m one of the top five players in the world. To come out in a field like this and hold on wire to wire, I feel like I’ve proven myself.”
“Confidence is 90% of the game, it’s huge factor in competitive golf,” says David Nelson, President and Founder of Hole-In-One U.S.A. “If you look at the talent level out there, it’s so great and there is so much talent across the board that the guys with the most confidence rise to the top.”
Despite Reed’s admirable self-belief, he is not in fact one of the top five. Prior to the tournament, he was ranked 44th best in the world, and the win bumped him up to the 20th best.
Trash talking and self hype are thought to be unnecessary in a sport where it’s incredibly easy to identify the best player during any particular tournament or period of time. The player who has the lowest score in a tournament is the best for that week; the player who performed the best against the most challenging fields over the past two years is the best player in the entire world. It’s as simple as that. While Reed was clearly the best for that particularly week and is most certainly a very talented young man, many still scoff at his bluster because the evidence contradicted him.
Yet, his mathematical miscalculations aren’t the exact reason why so many in the golf community are irked and astounded, but it’s rather the sheer gall of his bravado. Golf has always been, and continues to be in many respects, a gentleman’s game. Reed’s audacity just doesn’t sit well with people who prefer their golf champions to be poised and humble. They want a company man who thanks his God and his country–not a professional athlete who wants to give thanks to his agents, sponsors, and wife as Reed did. The golf community prizes modesty, false or real, as much as talent.
The media’s reaction wound up falling along generational lines. Those over-30 criticized, while the under-30s complimented. John Peterson, a 24-year-old who turned pro the same year as Reed, tweeted: “Dude speaks how he feels. People today could not have handled Muhammad Ali.”