Patrick Reed is still getting grief for a comment he made after his last PGA Tour win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last March.
After beating an all-world field at Doral, Reed said he believed he was a top-five player in the world, even if the Official World Golf Ranking didn't yet recognize it. A lot of people rolled their eyes and have used the comment to needle the Augusta State -- er, Georgia Regents University -- product, particularly after his play fell off in the months immediately after that third pro win.
Eventually, Reed got it back together. He was great at the Ryder Cup. He shushed -- shushed! -- the European crowd at Gleneagles. The cockiness that turned a lot of people off (not me, though) suddenly won over a lot of fans.
Reed took the next step forward on Monday at the Hyundai Touranment of Champions. His final-round, 6-under 67 landed him in a sudden-death playoff with Jimmy Walker, whose game and psyche never recovered from an unexpected bogey at the short par-4 14th hole. In the first hole of extra time, Reed made an 18-foot birdie putt to secure his fourth PGA Tour win his last 35 starts.
The only person with more wins in that span? Rory McIlroy.
Reed, who turns 25 next August, is also just one of four players in the last two decades to notch four PGA Tour wins before their 25th birthday. The others are guys known simply by their first names: Rory, Tiger and Sergio. Great company.
No one's comparing Reed to Rory or Tiger, but it's impossible to ignore what Reed has accomplished -- not only since breaking through at the 2013 Wyndham Championship, in a playoff against Jordan Spieth no less, but even to get to that point. Throughout the 2012 season, Reed, with wife Justine on the bag, traveled the country to play in myriad PGA Tour Monday qualifiers, earning starts the hard way, the old school way.
This guy is a bit of a throwback. He's not gym-obsessed. His swing harkens to moves made by players of a prior generation. The pleats in the pants aren't so great. But he's a closer. He's streaky, too, but that's true of most every pro his age. The difference is he is racking up official wins at a rate none of his more-touted peers can match.
With the longer C.V. comes more scrutiny, and Reed earned it when muttering a gay slur at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November. Reed apologized quickly, vowing to do better.
The next step for Reed is a major. His Augusta collegiate connection makes the Masters seem like an obvious fit, though he missed the cut amid the post-Doral slump last season. Already off to a great start in 2015, Reed will probably let the thought of slipping on a green jacket creep into his mind. He also probably won't mention it aloud.