ALBANY, The Bahamas — It’s Tiger’s tournament and Tiger, and his people, make the pairings. There are just 18 golfers in the field, every one of them a player you likely know. That makes for nine beautiful twosomes. Last place gets you $100,000 and a week in the sun. Good work if you can get it. Woods donates his winnings to his charity. The groups are made with TV in mind.
Consider these three pairings that went off between High Noon and 12:30 on Thursday, at the enjoyable, no-rough big-ticket resort course here, designed by Ernie Els. You had Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas at 12:05 p.m., two true-blue Establishment Golfers if ever there was a pair. Next, for their 12:16 game, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler could be seen sashaying their way to the tee, all swagger and style. Then, at 12:27, came Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson, the reigning Masters champion and a two-time Masters champion. Was Woods, as calculating a man as you could ever want to meet and, one year from now, the U.S. Presidents Cup captain, trying out a pairing? You could see it.
They’re both sort of lone-wolf golfers, Reed and Watson, on the fringes of Tour’s mainstream. Nothing wrong with that. There’s only so much room at the lunch table for the cool kids. Yes, the two play dissimilar golf, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially in better-ball. When Bubba won this event in its first year here, he played twice with Reed. You could see there was a nice rapport between them on Thursday, and that’s got to be a good thing, right?
Well, Justine Reed, Patrick’s wife, said on Thursday that the key to the famous Patrick Reed-Jordan Spieth pairing was not that the two Texans are close, because they’re not. What made it work, she said, is “because they’re both so competitive, and want to beat each other so bad, so that when they play together they’re still trying” to outdo one another. And it worked. Well, it did work, in two Ryder Cups and one Presidents Cup. But at this year’s Ryder Cup, Jim Furyk, the U.S. captain, broke up that team. Reed got some consolation prize. He played with Tiger Woods, twice in two days, the week after Woods won at East Lake.
It is also true that Reed and Watson, both emotional players, both have spikes-in-mouth disease. They would likely not agree, but they do say some odd things. But does it really matter? Justine said it does not. Both men, she said, are “just being true to themselves.”
So when they’re in the mood, they make things interesting. Except when they don’t.
Patrick Reed was way off his game on Thursday. Not on the course. With his wife and his swing coach (Kevin Kirk) following him, Reed opened birdie-birdie. Watson was outdriving him by 30 and 40 yards at times, but did Reed look the slightest bit concerned? He did not. Reed shot 65 in the first round of this Hero World Challenge, a charitable arm of the Tiger Woods Foundation. Nobody shot lower.
It was his post-round commentary that was painfully dull.
Soon after the Ryder Cup concluded, Reed, in a phone interview with the New York Times, wondered why he had not been paired with Jordan Spieth.
Given what had just happened, given that he was paired with his childhood hero, given that his play was poor, his comments were widely viewed as positively nutty, completely inappropriate and classic Patrick Reed.
Then came his post-round comments on Thursday.
“I love the place, I love the golf course, and any way to support Tiger, as well as support the Hero Challenge, is something I want to do,” Reed said.
When a reporter asked Reed if he needed to resolve anything with Woods, he said, “I don’t think anything needs to be resolved. I’ve seen all the guys and talked to all the guys and we’ve all moved past that. We’re plenty of weeks beyond the Ryder Cup.”
Really, somebody should send out an APB to all available PGA Tour media officials: What have you done with Patrick Reed? It was only Wednesday that Reed, speaking to the New York Post, doubled down on his criticism of Captain Jim Furyk’s pairing decisions at Le Golf National.
But Thursday was a new day.
Woods, in a separate session with reporters after his T-16 73, said that he and Reed spoke “for a long period of time. We talked amongst us and it will stay between us.”
Now there is a comment right out the Tiger Woods public-remarks playbook. A reasonably credible answer, but without an opening to go deeper. He’s the best.
Reed almost matched him. Asked about his conversation with Woods, Reed said on Thursday, “Whatever I talk about with other players and other guys, stays between the guys.”
Oh, that’s good. So boring. So good.
The Tour is not ground zero for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The underlying m.o. is don’t make waves. Reed, like Bubba Watson before him, surely got the memo, but he disregards it whenever the mood strikes. Thursday was not one of those days.
It’s a sign of our times that there seems to be more interest in Reed’s post-Ryder Cup analysis, and his earlier complaint about he and Justine being separated from the other players at a Tour-orchestrated trip to Fenway Park, than he is for the remarkable thing he did in April, at Augusta, where he won his first major.
In most any small-group setting, Reed really can be a delight. In his Wednesday pro-am, he was telling two reporters, and anybody else in earshot, how he likes just seeing his loaner green jacket from the club in his closet and in his luggage. “I use it as motivation,” he said. “As a start.”
He talked engagingly about the hold-cut drives he used at Augusta for the first time, with a distinctive “helicopter finish,” as he called it. Asked how many other players play majors with multiple and decidedly different swings, Reed said cheerfully, “Me!”
Justine Reed, talking while walking on Thursday, commented on her husband’s modest weight-loss, and how ridiculous it is “for people to call him fat,” when he’s strong as a bull and “that’s just his body type.” She said the size of his forearms was the first thing she noticed when they met as college students. Justine was studying to become a nurse. Reed was focused on one thing: a career on the PGA Tour. And now he has it.
Justine was asked what she and Patrick have learned in their half-decade or so on Tour, pretty much playing the world. They started off as young newlyweds. Now they have two young children.
“You learn to be more tolerant,” she said. “You learn to be more accepting.”
Based on how he handled Thursday, it seems that Justine’s husband has learned that silence — or caution, anyway — is golden. Here’s hoping it was a one-off.