Not since Tiger Woods did the trick 17 years ago has the Masters produced a successful title defence, but the man bidding to re-write the record books this time around has issued a Reed alert. “I feel like I’m in as good form, if not in a better place, than I was last year at this time,” said Patrick Reed, with the season’s opening major now just three weeks away.
The American was speaking in a teleconference that has become an annual tradition for Green Jacket winners, marking the countdown to a week that is the most anticipated on the golfing calendar, even if that is partly due to such a lengthy gap from the last major the previous year.
While perhaps not the event’s most popular winner due to some controversial issues from his days at the University of Georgia, Reed produced a polished performance in the splendid arena that is Augusta National just under 12 months ago to claim his major breakthrough with a one-shot victory over fast-finishing compatriot Rickie Fowler.
Reed, who then claimed fourth spot in the US Open and 28th position in the Open Championship before missing the cut in US PGA Championship, has been steady rather than spectacular so far this year.
The 28-year-old has made the cut in all seven events he’s played on the PGA Tour, with his best finish being tied 13th in both the Sony Open and the Farmers Insurance Open, closely followed by joint-14th in WGC-Mexico Championship. In his most recent outing, he opened with three 69s in the Players Championship before tumbling down the leaderboard following a closing 78.
“The preparation has been going really well,” he added, refusing to read too much into the final round at Sawgrass. “The big thing is just to continue to build and grow on the things that we’ve been working on, my coach, my team and I throughout the year, and just get ready and kind of get in playing shape for the tournaments upcoming.
“I’m playing this week at Valspar and then playing next week at the WGC Match Play and then [I] have a week off to just keep on grinding, getting ready for the defence and to be able to come back to Augusta and hopefully be able to put myself in position come late Sunday.
“I feel like my mindset and state of mind that I’m in right now is better than it was last year at this point. I’ve hit golf shots and have done things on the golf course that I feel a little bit more comfortable this year doing than I did last year at this point, but I just need to go out and continue playing to put four rounds together.
“I’ve put myself in position and have put some solid rounds together, I just haven’t quite put four yet out there at the same time yet. It’s either been two or three or three and a half. I just need to get all of them going. I feel like I’m really close. I feel like I’ve gotten the bag where I feel really comfortable and confident with it, and now it’s just get some more reps underneath me and just kind of get ready for Augusta.”
The win there last year lifted him to 11th in the world rankings, but he’s back down to 16th. In fact, it’s not been all plain sailing for the Texan over the past 12 months. At the Ryder Cup, for example, he let rip about not being paired with Jordan Spieth, a successful partnership that had been spawned in the 2014 match at Gleneagles.
“I didn’t feel any different before Augusta or after Augusta,” insisted Reed when asked about some of the frustrating stretches he’d encountered in the second half of last season. “When things don’t go your way on the golf course, they sting no matter what. I think the biggest thing was being able to bounce back right after it, and whether it’s a stretch of holes, whether it’s a tournament, whether it’s a round, being able to bounce back and being able to observe and pinpoint what it is that held you back that week in order to improve and move forward.
“I feel like that’s one thing that we worked really hard on as a team, being able to pinpoint those things that have either cost you a couple shots during a round, whether it’s been a tournament, to be able to fix those quicker than we were last year and being able to get back on track faster. The main goal in golf is to keep those low points very small and not have them linger around too long. I feel I’ve really improved on the mental side as well as the physical side. My golf swing also feels in a better position than it was last year at this point. It just gives me more confidence kind of moving forward once we get closer to Augusta.”