By Masters standards — especially for a first-time major winner who played the majority of his college golf at Augusta State — Sunday's celebration around the 18th green for Patrick Reed seemed less than a deliriously happy one.
Then again, the 27-year-old Reed's relationship with the golfing world has been complicated through the years, complete with rumors of cheating and stealing from teammates while a freshman at the University of Georgia.
How true those rumors were remains somewhat uncertain, though USA Today published a story on Saturday claiming a Bulldogs assistant coach once confirmed that those charges — first made public in a book by noted golf writer Shane Ryan — were accurate.
Beyond that, when Reed beat former Baylor School great and then-Georgia star Harris English in the final match of the 2011 NCAA championship to deliver Augusta State a second straight national title, ESPN reported several golfers from both sides called it "the death of karma." Players from Augusta State (now known as Augusta University) even told English before the match that they wanted to win the championship but hoped he could knock off Reed.
But that doesn't mean Reed didn't richly deserve to win the green jacket Sunday, regardless of how muted the response to that triumph over more popular runner-up Rickie Fowler and hugely popular third-place finisher and 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth.facebook
After all, Reed did have to knock in nerveless par putts on both No. 17 and the final hole to hold off Fowler, who had birdied 18 to pull within a single stroke at 14 under. Let Reed miss his 3 1/2 -foot putt for the win, and there would have been a playoff.
Said the victor inside Augusta National's Butler Cabin of that finish: "To have to par the last hole to win my first major, it definitely felt right."
Before that, he reportedly told Fowler as the two embraced after that par: "You had to do it, didn't you? You had to birdie the last."
Maybe this is the start of something really big for Reed, or maybe it's the continuation of a recent trend at the Masters, which has had four straight first-time major winners slip on the most famous jacket in sports.
But while Reed hadn't previously won a major, he does own a 6-1-2 Ryder Cup record that's rightly earned him the nickname "Captain America." As the USA Today article also pointed out, at a time when several American golfers — including Spieth and Dustin Johnson — skipped out on the 2016 Rio Olympics because of fears related to the Zika virus, Reed participated.
It doesn't mean he's perfect. He can still unleash a torrent of words after a bad shot that can't be repeated in a family newspaper. He may still be, as Great Britain's Telegraph paper has named him, "The most hated player in golf." A 2015 players poll conducted by ESPN only slightly disagreed with that assessment, placing him second in that category behind another former Georgia Bulldog — Bubba Watson.
Asked after Saturday's round how he felt about a number of negative Twitter posts going out at that time regarding him, Reed said, "Honestly I don't really care what people say on Twitter or if they are cheering for me or not cheering for me. I'm out here to do my job, and that's to play golf."
He played the entirety of this past weekend with a tremendous amount of intelligence and skill, right down to his final two putts on the 72nd and final hole. While Reed was but 1 under for Sunday's round, he never seemed in anything but near total control.
And when he positively, absolutely had to two-putt on the 18th green, he vividly recalled 2017 Masters winner Sergio Garcia's skill in a similar situation.
"To (see it) stay on that ridge," Reed said of where his approach shot landed. "I was watching Sergio last year having putts from up there and barely tapping them, you see it carrying some speed."
He has long had the talent, even if he gets on people's nerves and hasn't exactly been a role model to this point for much of anybody. But Reed and his wife now also have two children. He's a Ryder Cup hero. He even went with hot pink for his shirt on Sunday rather than his preferred red because that was the apparent plan of Nike.
Moreover, when Rory McIlroy tried to put pressure on him after Saturday's round, perhaps because the two would be paired together Sunday, Reed would have none of it.
"I'm not going to be there focusing on Rory or really focusing on any of those guys," he told the media. "I'm just going to go out and try to play the golf course and try to play some good golf."
Afterward, his victory secured, Reed said, "I knew it was going to be a dogfight. It's just a way of God basically saying, 'Let's see if you have it.' Everyone knows you have it physically with the talent. But do you have it mentally? Can you handle the ups and downs throughout the round?"
What could be scary for the rest of golf is what he said late Saturday, before he so expertly managed those ups and downs.
"I almost feel like I can kick it into another gear," Reed said, "and go even deeper."
If he's right, the rest of us might have to dig deeper into Reed's growth and development from this point forward to re-evaluate whether he still deserves to be viewed as one of pro golf's least popular talents.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com