Golf never forgets — and it rarely forgives.
Just ask Patrick Reed.
The 31-year-old Texan has long been the subject of allegations and accusations of impropriety on and off the golf course, and it’s now been brought to light in a new book, “The Cup They Couldn’t Lose,” by Shane Ryan (Hatchet).
Detailing the long history of the Ryder Cup, Ryan explains how 2020 US captain Steve Stricker managed to galvanize a team so often incapable of beating their European counterparts — and how he solved the perennial problem of Patrick Reed.
Ryan’s relationship with Reed dates back to 2015, when he first wrote about his controversial college career. In 2008, Reed enrolled at the University of Georgia in Athens, but was kicked off the golf team for two alcohol violations. He was also arrested for underage drinking and possessing a fake ID, given community service and put on probation.
That wasn’t all.
When items including a watch, a putter and $400 went missing from the locker room, teammates suspected it was Reed who had taken them, especially as he turned up the following day with a large wad of cash.
Reed denied the charges.
His on-course performance was equally divisive. During one qualifying round, Reed hit his ball into the rough but when they found it, it was, miraculously, closer to the fairway. Convinced he was cheating, Reed was challenged by his teammates but denied any wrongdoing.
It was a similar story when Reed attended Augusta State. This time, he stood accused of shaving strokes off his scorecards and while his teammates voted to kick him off the team, his coach reduced the sanction to a two-match suspension.
Reed led Augusta to two national titles, the second in a showdown with his old college, Georgia. In the final game of his collegiate career, Reed faced former teammate Harris English. According to Ryan, Reed’s Augusta State teammates actually wished English luck before the game. Still, “He had none,” writes Ryan. “Reed won in a match that one onlooker called ‘the death of karma’.”
PGA Tour golfer and University of Georgia alumnus Kevin Kisner believes that none of his former teammates had any time for Reed. “I don’t know that they’d piss on him if he was on fire,” he says in the book.
Reed’s professional career was also dogged by controversy. Although one of the standout players at the 2016 Ryder Cup — where the US won 17-11 at Hazeltine National, Chaska, Minn. — by the time a French event took place at Le Golf National in September 2018, near Paris, it seemed it was persona non grata.
Despite forming a successful partnership with Jordan Spieth at Hazeltine, earning himself the nickname “Captain America,” 2018 captain Jim Furyk broke up the pairing when Spieth asked not to play with Reed, preferring to team with Justin Thomas.
Other US captains tried to accommodate Reed. In 2019, Tiger Woods selected him for the Presidents Cup match against the International team captained by South Africa’s Ernie Els in Melbourne, Australia, but, as Ryan writes, “to take someone like Reed for a team event is to take a big risk – to balance his incredible skill at match play with the decent chance that he could become a fully malignant clubhouse cancer.”
Golf analyst Brandel Chamblee, meanwhile, suggested that in picking Reed, Woods had “made a deal with the devil.”
He was right.
At the Hero World Classic in the Bahamas prior to the Presidents Cup, Reed was spotted trying to improve the lie of his ball, not once but twice. Reed blamed it on the angle of the TV cameras making it look worse than it was but he was still penalized two strokes. As Ryan writes: “Making a deal with the devil is useful only if the devil can give you something important in exchange, and everyone was watching, especially [assistant captain] Steve Stricker.”
Even the International team weighed in. “To give a bit of a bulls–t response like the camera angle, that’s pretty up there,” said Australia’s Cameron Smith. “I don’t have any sympathy for anyone that cheats. I hope the crowd absolutely gives it to not only him but everyone next week.”
And they did.
Reed was savagely abused by the crowd at every turn. Armed police were even assigned to walk with him on the course. It was so vicious that Reed’s caddy, Kessler Karain, lashed out at one fan. “I had had enough. . . guy was about 3 feet from Patrick and said ‘You f–king suck’. I got off the cart and shoved him,” says Karain in the book.
While the US edged the match 16-14, Stricker had seen at first hand how Reed’s mother presence had so nearly derailed the team’s chances — and he wasn’t going to risk that at the Ryder Cup.
Free from the trouble that followed Reed around like a puppy, the US team jelled like never before, coasting to a record win over Europe, winning 19-9. Petty feuds were forgotten, egos left at the locker-room door and any chance of disruption had been eradicated.
Finally, the US players were a team, not just a dozen millionaire golfers thrown together. And, as Ryan writes, it showed “what happens when American power is no longer stifled by mismanagement, but elevated and ultimately unleashed by a superb captaincy.”
But, more importantly, “he had learned which personalities fit best in the team room.”
And that, clearly, didn’t mean Patrick Reed.