Patrick Reed is the 2018 Masters champion. He was a bit under the radar prior to the tournament and was 60/1 to win. What do you make of this unlikely victory and where do you think it ranks in terms of Masters upsets?
I wouldn’t say it’s a huge surprise. Patrick Reed had some form coming into the Masters, having finished T2 in the Valspar and T7 behind Rory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s a pretty feisty player and we saw how well he played at Gleneagles in the 2014 Ryder Cup and he beat Rory McIlroy in the top singles at Hazeltine in 2016.
So, he wasn’t a totally unknown quantity by a long way – he just didn’t get a lot of media attention because all the talk beforehand was about Tiger Woods and whether or not Rory could complete his Grand Slam.
His victory was built on the first three rounds, where he established a big lead. Unless Rory was going to run him close, he had five shots to play with. Jordan Speith turned it on but he was too far behind Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler did likewise but just couldn’t overtake him.
Patrick Reed knew that, if he shot about par, someone would have to play an outstanding round to beat him. He was in control all the way through – he putted beautifully all week, he putted well in the last round and he’s got the temperament for the big occasion.
He wasn’t put off by the big roar Rory received on the first tee. In some ways, you could be forgiven for thinking the Masters was in Europe rather than Augusta, because Rory is very popular and Patrick, for some reason, isn’t.
Reed’s personality seems to split opinion he’s been at the centre of a few controversies over the years. What’s your take on him and how do you think his victory will be received by the golfing world?
His win, I hope, will change people’s perceptions of him. He hasn’t always been the most popular golfer and some stories have surfaced about his misdemeanours during his college years. These are adolescent mistakes and we’ve all made them, but you’ve got to treat people as you see them. What I see now is a golfer who’s trying hard to get to the top and is succeeding. Since he’s turned pro, his behaviour has been exemplary.
I’m not a great believer of digging into people’s past because there’s always two sides to a story and the fact is that he’s a very good golfer. It didn’t surprise me that he was able to hang on and win – having a three-stroke lead overnight is always difficult to sleep on going in the final day of a major like the Masters, but he coped with the pressure perfectly.
Jon Rahm was one of your favourites before the tournament and finished on 11 under par, which in previous years would have been enough to win the Masters. How unlucky do you think he was and do you think it’s only a matter of time before he wins a major?
I don’t think it will be long before he wins a major – we can all see he’s good enough. I think he was unlucky playing with Rickie Fowler who was on a hot streak and completely overshadowed him. Rickie was on the form of his life and was holing everything.
Jon did well to hang onto his coattails most of the way and all-in-all this experience has been a good learning curve for him. He’s only 23 and is still learning how to cope in a major – sometimes you forget how young he is, because he looks and plays like a mature golfer.
When you consider that Jon’s only been a pro for a couple of years and is eyeing up the number 1 spot in the world rankings, it’s been a tremendous achievement from him to finish as close to Patrick Reed as he did. It’s only a matter of time before he wins a major and I would say the same about Rickie Fowler as well.
Rickie Fowler came up just shy once again in a major. Is there anything extra he needs to do to get over the line in first place?
I don’t think he needs to do anything. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with his game and he’s got a great coach in Butch Harmon who’ll guide him. Rickie has already finished 2nd, 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in major championships and he’s played as well as you can play in a major without actually winning one.
He’s got an excellent temperament, as shown by the manner in which he finished at Augusta, with that excellent shot on the 18th hole. He didn’t know what was happening behind him and he thought that if he holed the shot, it could be the winning putt.
This just demonstrates his winning mentality and so for that reason, as with Jon Rahm, I think it’s only a matter of time before Rickie wins a major.
How different do you think the day might have panned out had Rory not missed his eagle putt on the 2nd? How big a moment was that in setting the tone for the round?
Missing that 4-foot putt on the 2nd turned out to be a game changer. Rory rushed it in my opinion – it was such a wild shot and was very unlike him. That, for me, was the defining moment in the last round and Rory never seemed to recover from it. His game after that was pretty average and I think he realised after the 6th hole it wasn’t going to be his day.
Putts like that early in the round set the tone for the rest of the day. Everyone’s opening tee shot is the most important shot to hit that day because it shapes the round. Patrick Reed had a three-stroke lead by the 4th tee without having played very well up to that point, and that’s what spurred him on to victory.
Having said all that, I’m still confident that Rory will eventually complete his Grand Slam. He’s going to be around for a long time and he’ll have loads more chances to put it right.
Americans came to the fore on day four at Augusta – finishing 1-2-3. Do you think players from the USA have the upper-hand mentally at this point?
It was a strong performance from the Americans, which isn’t unexpected when you consider they have most of the field and Augusta is in the heart of America! They do, of course, have a lot of great young players, most of whom are not long out of college.
Without really scratching the surface, you’ve got Patrick Reed, Jordan Speith, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka. With the college system out there and the size of America, it’s only inevitable that Americans dominate golf for periods.
But despite being up against some top golfers, the Europeans performed very well, with Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson all finishing in the top 10. It’s a credit to them that they can compete with such great players.
Do you think the course posed a good and fair test this year? There is talk of lengthening some holes (like the 5th) – do you think that’s necessary?
I think the course is pretty fair. They could even make it trickier and the greens firmer. In the third round, the weather forecast was wind and rain, so Augusta officials put a number of tees forward, especially at holes like the 4th which is usually about a 240 yard par-3.
However, the bad weather missed Augusta. This left the players with quite an easy course and they took full of advantage of that. If they hadn’t put the tees forward, I think the winning score would have been about 12 under par. There was quite a lot of low scoring, but under different conditions I think the score would barely have reached double figures.
In general, I don’t think much will change. A couple of tees might get moved back, but I can’t see much else happening.
How would you rate Tiger’s performance on his return to major action?
I was disappointed. If I had to give him a score, it would be 4 out of 10. Tommy Fleetwood and Marc Leishman outplayed Tiger easily in the first two rounds and Tiger wasn’t able to take his driver off the tee because he was scared of getting out of position. Even his putting wasn’t up to his usual high standards.
I’m pleased he’s back fit, though. He looks better and he completed four rounds, but his game is not at a level where he can contend in a major. I think our expectations of Tiger were too high – we read a lot in the build-up about his positivity and will-to-win, but his game really wasn’t up to it.
It’s going to take a bit longer than we all think for him to play the way he wants to play, but he’s going to have to improve his driving if he wants to win future golf tournaments.
Lastly, what was your favourite moment of the Masters and why?
One of the best moments for me was when Jack Nicklaus’ grandson got a hole-in-one in the Par Three competition.
This is always a fun part of the Masters and Jack looked more pleased with his grandson’s hole-in-one than when he won the tournament himself! It was a great moment.
Did you enjoy the Masters? Check out ‘What Makes A Masters Champion’ for more.