Turning heel: Why it’s time for Patrick Reed to embrace the bad boy image

January 9, 2020
Patrick Reed should take a page out of Hulk Hogan's heel-turn playbook.

Patrick Reed needs to remake himself, and he’s going to need help to do it. That was GOLF senior writer Michael Bamberger’s point in a column he penned earlier this week, and while I agree with Bamberger, my view on how to do it differs: It’s time for Reed to take a page out of the WWE’s playbook and turn heel.

In wrestling terminology, a “heel” is a villain. Characters often turn from good guy to bad guy for storyline purposes. No one did that better than Hulk Hogan when he famously went from America’s hero to one of the greatest villains in history by revealing himself to be the secret leader of the New World Order (NWO), the most despised group in wrestling at the time.

There are parallels you can draw between Reed and Hogan’s characters.

Immense early success and over-the-top patriotism at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup helped Reed earn the nickname “Captain America.” Reed was beloved by U.S. fans for his brash antics and fearless approach toward match-play competitors and opposing countries’ fans. “Hulkamania” was running wild in the ’80s and early ‘90s when Hogan would defy odds and complete epic comebacks against giants and opponents who stood strongly against American values. Hogan was as synonymous with America as apple pie and baseball. Reed had his finger wave, Hogan had his power point.

But after a turmoil-filled 2018 Ryder Cup, a bunker controversy in the Bahamas and more drama at the 2019 Presidents Cup, Reed has fallen out of favor with some fans. Just as they turned on Hogan, cheers are now boos and hecklers are waiting at every turn. To be fair, Reed brought most of this upon himself. But perhaps it’s time to envision a new version of Reed — one that embraces the hate. If you don’t like what’s being said, then change the conversation.

Golf is full of good guys and emotionless robo-pros. You’ll never leave your mark being anything in between, but if your loved or scorned, well, then you’re always on the stage. Heroes become superheroes only when they have villains to battle, and in golf, there has always been a shortage of bad boys. That’s a void Reed could fill. Sunday at the Tournament of Champions gave us our first glimpse of that when social media was buzzing for Justin Thomas to defeat Reed in a playoff, and one fan made it loudly known he was rooting against Reed.

I’m not talking about getting loose with the rules. To make the heel turn, Reed needs to start shushing crowds on home soil — when a fan yells heckles him, he needs to turn that into fuel, sink the putt and deliver his patented “shhhh” right at the loudmouth fan. Forget about hat tips, Reed ought to embrace the silent treatment and bow dramatically after pulling off big shots. It’s time for Reed to let the emotions he once won those same fans over with fly in a way he’s never done before.

Patrick Reed chose to wear all black in the first event of 2020 rather than his traditional red shirt.
Getty Images

Did you notice Reed wore black instead of his traditional red at the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Sunday? What’s the first thing Hogan did when he turned heel? He turned in his famous red and yellow outfit for black. This could be the first sign that Reed is already transitioning his character.

Hogan had so much heat on him after initially making his turn. He was far and away the most hated man in wrestling for what he had done. But over time, the crowd discovered a newfound respect for him and slowly started to come back, finally demanding the red-and-yellow Hulkster return. There’s no shortage of heat coming Reed’s way and it’s going to get uglier before it gets better. But if he can embrace the animosity and become the villain people love to root against (and that golf so badly needs), over time Captain America might just return, too.

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