Arrogant Or Misunderstood? Why Is Patrick Reed Golf's Most Hated Man?

Fans and players alike have been vocal in their dislike for the US Ryder Cup star
06:55, 27 Feb 2020

It’s fair to say not everyone is a fan of Patrick Reed. While he enjoys success on the golf course, it seems he doesn’t collect many admirers along the way. Those on the professional circuit who were college teammates with Reed at Georgia and Augusta State have nothing to do with him. “They all hate him,” Kevin Kisner told golfdigest. “Any guys that were on the team with him [at Georgia] hate him and that’s the same way at Augusta.” 

Bold and brash, Reed is an acerbic character. In 2014 he irked many by claiming to be a top-five player despite having yet to appear in a major championship, but it was a sign already that his confidence is displayed as arrogance. For many he is unlikable. Hushing crowds as he attempts putts and shunning spectators, he certainly rubs people up the wrong way and is far from amiable.

It is a shame for a man who wore the green jacket after winning the Masters in 2018 that his words and approach mean he is not revered and adored like other champions.

This week, his one-shot win at the WGC-Mexico Championship landed him a seven-figure win and saw him shoot up the US Ryder Cup standings to third. But still, the feelings remains that he is not appreciated.

So, why is there such disdain from his peers?

According to Golfdigest, it was alleged in published reports that Reed broke rules during qualifying rounds and also took items from teammates’ lockers, something the 29-year-old denies.

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In 2018, the publication’s Scott Michaux reported that other pros who have played alongside Reed are much less inclined to talk as Kisner did. Instead, they all give the same steely look, refusing to comment. But controversy continues to follow Reed around. Only in December at the World Challenge there was a furore when the American apparently improved his lie twice by brushing sand away from behind his ball.

Penalised two shots, the PGA Tour insisted he behaved ‘like a gentleman’ but not everyone agreed. Asked whether he cheated, PGA champion Brooks Koepka was inclined to say he had. “Yeah. I think, yeah, yeah," he said of his Ryder Cup team-mate. "I mean, I don't know what he was doing, building sand castles in the sand? You know where your club is. I mean, I took three months off and I can promise you I know if I touched sand."

Reed also positioned himself above others, with no care for what they thought, after the United States lost to Europe at the Ryder Cup. Speaking to the New York Times, he questioned the decision to split him from Jordan Spieth and why he didn’t feature in every match.

"The issue is obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,'' he insisted. "For somebody as successful in the Ryder Cup as I am, I don't think it's smart to sit me twice.''

Accusatory and curt, it was another reason for others to look on unfavourably. He often practices alone while his caddy is his brother-in law, who replaced his wife on the green after she became pregnant with the couple’s first child in 2014. Golfdigest reports Reed’s relationship with other members of his family is ‘complicated’.

His mother and father were not invited to his 2012 wedding, while his sister Hannah hasn’t spoken to Reed for many years. Living just a few miles from Augusta National, they watched him win the Masters at home. Besides his wife and her brother, he does have other people in his corner, happy to leap to his defence, none less than Rory McIlroy.

“I respect him. I have a deep respect for his game, his mental toughness, his drive,” McIlroy told Golf Digest of Reed. “I’ve spent enough time around Patrick to know he’s a really good guy and sometimes misunderstood. I genuinely like him.”

In one great match-up at the Ryder Cup, the Irishman took on Reed and, on the eighth hole, raised his arms and bellowed at spectators “I can’t hear you!” after scoring a birdie. Reed then rolled a 25-foot birdie to halve the hole before jokingly wagging his finger at McIlroy, prompting a fistbump between the pair.

Josh Gregory, Reed’s swing advisor and former college coach, agrees with the misunderstood tag. “He’s said things maybe he wishes he didn’t say, but for the most part he’s very misunderstood,” claimed Gregory. “He’s a lot more well-liked than people think. He keeps mainly to himself and cares about his family and cares about his golf, and that’s mainly just it. He doesn’t have a lot of other interests. 

He also pointed to his tireless work-rate. “There could be a documentary on how hard this young man works,” he added. “Yes, he’s very talented, but there’s no secret to why he’s been so successful. That’s his work ethic. 

“Nobody will outwork him or out-prepare him. Of course, he’s very brash and cocky inwardly, but that’s not really who he is on the outside. At times it may come across as that when he says ‘I’m one of the top-five players in the world,’ but that’s what he genuinely believes.”

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It’s true, Reed practices to the point of obsession. He always has, even when he was going down to the course as a kid.

“I'd get there at 7:30 in the morning on snowy days, turn on the heater and hit until noon. I'd go inside, eat a cheeseburger, then resume hitting until dark,” he told The Golf Paper of his childhood on the course, having received a set of plastic clubs on the day he was born in 1990.

“You know those huge pails of balls the size of laundry baskets? I'd go through four of those a day. I'd get these world-class blisters on the fourth finger of both hands. I went through a lot of pain. I felt like I was paying a price. I don't think you can hit as many balls as I did without getting to be pretty good."

Tiger Woods is also an alibi. Reed holds great respect for the sporting legend, even wearing red and black alongside him, as Woods does on Sundays, and the two can clearly have a laugh. “Tiger said ‘Hey, Patrick,’” Reed told John Feinstein for the book Inside the Ryder Cup. “‘Come here a minute.’

"I thought sure he was going to give me a pep talk, say something about my swing or about just relaxing and not trying too hard. I walked over there. He had his arms folded. I waited. He looked really serious. And then he told me a dirty joke. "It was actually the perfect thing to do," he said. "It just broke the tension. I went back to hitting balls, and all of a sudden I was loose as could be. I was ready." So, not always really serious, is Reed.

Is it really just a mere case that he is misunderstood? Booed and jeered at times having wound the crowd up, it certainly seems he is more pantomime villain than true baddy. Coming across as so cocky and pretentious, is he actually just so determined to be the best he doesn’t care for what people think of him? 

The not-so tame vitriol spurs him on and the barbs do not pierce, they are just blocked out. Perhaps he just thrives on the hostility. It takes all kinds to be a winner.