Patrick Reed finally seems happy in the LIV Golf bubble | Golf News and Tour Information

Westminster, New Jersey – Patrick Reed had just carved out his approach to the par-3 fourth, and although the ball disappeared in the overcast skies on Friday, you could tell by the sound and his pose that this was the shot he wanted to hit, confirmed seconds later when he came 10 feet from the hole. Even for a player of his stature, it was a good shot, one of those shots that underscores the spread between pros and the rest of us schmucks.

The momentary fear was shattered, however, when two men in their twenties started screaming before the ball came to rest. “Oh man, oh man Patty, this is good! How good is this? Can you see where this is going? Look how good it is!” It was innocuous, if a little obnoxious, given the volume and the fact that there were less than eight people around the box. These were screams you would hear at any golf event and generally ignored screams. Only Reed turned, a few feet between himself and the fans, and smiled. “Don’t worry, I knew where it was going,” he remarked. Whether it was his response or just the fact that they had been recognized, both men were beside themselves and let Reed know they were shooting for him as Reed walked to the green.

Now, when it comes to Reed’s interactions with fans, those who follow the sport understand that’s not how it usually goes. Sure, this is a league that promised disruption, and one of its chaos ships delivers a disparate product of the norm. On that front, give LIV Golf this: it has venues you don’t usually see in other tournaments. While there was a lot of sensory overload on Friday at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, one of the weirder sights was that of Reed – golf’s lone wolf – apparently, finally, part of a pack.

“Being here and having the support that we have here, not just with the players but with all the staff and the courses that we go to, the spectators that we have and just being part of something new and being part of something something which I feel is refreshing,” Reed said after creating a seven under 64 to take a share of the first-round lead.

Before we go too far down this path, it should be noted that there are a lot of—how do you put it?—orchestration this week. This comes in part with the presence of a former President of the United States, Donald Trump, who on Friday afternoon walked into the 16th tee mid-competition to watch the players do their best not to embarrass in front of him and the crowd following his every move. But it’s also the fact that this league is not without controversy: who’s in it, who’s behind it, and what it’s all trying to accomplish. The parties involved are therefore doing their best to keep this controversy at bay. This includes LIV using pseudo-comedians to reduce tension during press conferences; when a tough question is asked by the media, there’s a silly follow-up question to give players levity. We say that to say this: every player seems to be on their best behavior – with the fans, with the staff, with each other, and that sentiment was best exemplified on the Friday morning lineup.

Professional golf is a brotherly bunch, but practice facilities at other tournaments don’t feature as many hugs and punches, yells and friendly talk as those on display at Trump Bedminster. Maybe it’s the sentiment that accompanies guaranteed paydays and signing bonuses, or the foxhole mentality of those suspended from their respective former tours. A cynic might cite as an example that this league leans towards exhibitionism; a promoter could say that the players are really into the team dynamic. It depends on the prism of the viewer, and it’s something that won’t be proven for some time.

Except Reed…well, “brotherly” was never his jam. He likes to keep things indoors, avoiding the company of others during a tournament. Reed prides himself on being unfazed by his surroundings, indebted to an inner charge known only to himself. It can be intimidating. It can be serious and emit an unwelcoming vibe. He is not there to talk but to work, to compete. If you’ve ever seen it on the beach, the headphones are still inside, doing their best to keep noise out. Frankly, throughout Reed’s career, there’s been a lot of noise.

Still, Reed was on Friday, looking like the Mayor of Bedminster. Watching him walk the line of fire – trading barbs, exchanging high-fives, every remark generating a hearty laugh – it would be hard to explain that he is one of the most controversial figures in the sport. . Yes, he was there to work, and while other players seemed to be hitting balls to warm up, Reed went back and forth between congested hitting bays and a more spacious part of the range with coach Kevin Kirk. to repair his driver. mechanical. But Reed also seemed to (gasp) having fun.

There’s certainly the case that if anyone was truly passionate about the team component of LIV Golf, it was Reed, whose reputation (at least the good part) was fueled by early career successes at the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. “Let’s be honest, for me, team golf is always amazing, always fun,” Reed said. “To be part of a team we have four Americans [Reed, Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez, Talor Gooch] in our team, it’s one of those things that it’s kind of like one of those mini-team events. I can go out there and play for something other than myself; I play for my teammates. I love being able to look at this leaderboard and not only see my name, but also look up my guys, see, okay, what we need to do to try to stay on top of that leaderboard. It just gives you a bit more edge and a bit more fire to go out there and play.

And Reed, like a number of players, also seems revitalized by the shortened schedule. He mentioned during his introductory press conference that despite the ramifications of joining, he felt like LIV had found a quality of life he couldn’t find on tour. He claimed that being on the road and away from his children, the possibility that he was not a good father, was starting to affect his game.

“It’s exhausting you. It affects you as an athlete, affects you as a person, as a father, and it’s for me, I feel like it’s the best decision ever. “Reed said on joining LIV. “…Now I can compete at the highest level, but also prepare and prepare for every event and be able to be at home, and even if I’m going to prepare at home , I can spend time with the children.”

In the same breath, while this league has been a golden parachute for injury-prone players, grassroots names and those stuck in the purgatory that is golf in their 40s, Reed, at 31, is the rare member LIV who is young, in the prime of life, clear of injuries or off-course issues. But Reed also, whether he admits it or not, desperately needs a fresh start. He hasn’t been the same player since the 2021 Farmers’ Insurance Open incident regarding the relief of a plugged ball in the rough, a ball that, while following the rules of golf, broke an unwritten rule for many, along with other players and CBS Sports. aired taking on the eventual champion of the tournament. Coupled with the past allegations, as well as the curious activity of a Twitter account believed to be linked to his family and rumors of issues with his perceived treatment of the PGA Tour, the noise – even for Reed – was getting quite loud.

It’s no surprise, then, that Reed – who has only had one top 10 finish in his last 16 tour starts – finished T-3 on his LIV debut in Portland and had a share of the lead. in Westminster.

“At the end of the day, you keep adding the strength of the fields and the caliber of players that we have no matter what we do,” Reed said. “You have to grind, you have to focus, you have to be 110% to have a chance of winning tournament golf. I can probably speak for all of us here; there’s nothing quite like going out and having a chance on Sunday night to win a golf tournament and try to win a trophy.

But it should be noted that the fun and friendly guy on the beach was the same guy on the course. His guard, still up, was down. “I think the fans appreciate it,” Reed said of the experience. “They get a little more relaxed, kind of more pumped up, especially if you play well.”

On the first hole, when a fan shouted how far Reed had made his second shot – a shot Reed put within seven feet – Reed turned to his right, looked, smiled and signaled with his fingers 2-1-4. “I rinsed a 7 iron,” added Reed’s caddy and brother-in-law, Kessler Karain, forcing Reed to nod and smile again. He was chatty with playmates Paul Casey and Abraham Ancer, he chatted with volunteers, he cracked up with Trump. If he wasn’t having fun, well, that was one hell of a performance.

This is not to excuse or ignore the clouds that have followed Reed thus far. This is not about forcing a redemption arc. This is not to pass judgment or endorse, or change the minds of those who think they know who he is. It’s just to say that it doesn’t seem to matter, not here at least.

Here at LIV Golf, Reed’s past is just that, and it’s overshadowed by the myriad concerns about the league and its newness. Here, Patrick Reed can simply play golf. No wonder the man seems happy.

Michael C. Ford