Masters Sunday didn’t start the way Patrick Reed planned. Nope, it wasn’t because his endorsement deal with Nike prevented him from trekking to Augusta National in his preferred red. And it wasn’t because he shot himself out of the tournament from the get-go, as handfuls of others in his place have before him. Rather, it was because closest competitor Rory McIlroy continued to press him. In interviews on the eve of the final round, his would-be playing partner insisted that the pressure was on him while he strove to win in an unfamiliar position as the hunted. And for a while there, the premise appeared to hold true.
However, Reed is, if nothing else, resilient. With ice in his veins borne of a stubborn streak fans have seen most from his Ryder Cup appearances, he stared down McIlroy’s initial charge and instead saw the four-time major champion wilt from the moment anew. And throughout the most frightening — and most exciting 18 holes — of his life, he withstood challenge after challenge with steady play; it wasn’t mistake-free, but it was replete with opportunity that he gladly parlayed. The lead was his to start, and it was his in the end. He claimed the Green Jacket by the slimmest of margins, but proved, in the process, that he knew his game as well as he could, and that if he would be beaten, it would be by himself.
Certainly, a lesser man would have wilted under the heat provided by two-time Masters titleholder Jordan Spieth, who put together a brilliant effort from nine strokes down on the first tee to surge to the top of the leaderboard, albeit briefly, and head to the 72nd hole with a chance to claim at least a playoff slot. Not Reed. In the face of a monumental comeback for the ages, he stood resolute, confident in his capacity to protect his advantage by doing just enough and not subjecting himself to unnecessary risk. World Number Eight Rickie Fowler likewise knocked on the door with a spirited back-nine stand, but he shut the door with birdies on the 12th and 14th, and with gutsy pars the rest of the way.
With his outstanding Masters run, Reed can contend with pride that his bite is at least as good as his bark. No doubt, he will continue to rankle purists with his bombastic, irreverent approach to the sport. Then again, he now has the resumé to justify his in-your-face predilections. For good and for bad, he is who he is: Masters champion.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.