Precocious Reed Dares to Rival Tiger

By: Marino Parascenzo

Patrick Reed leads a charmed life. He could ride over Niagara Falls and come up dry.

Just as he was about to get his comeuppance this week for being uppity with Tiger Woods, Woods withdraws from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with his sore back. This was to be the week of Reed's dressing down, for dressing up like Tiger Woods, among other things. Consider this a stay of execution, then.

You could see it coming - winsome, innocent Patrick Reed was going to be dancing like Tennessee Williams' cat on a hot tin roof. If history has taught us anything, it has taught us that Reed was about to pay the price for his presumptuousness.

Here's the measure of his blasphemy: He had compared himself to Tiger Woods. Worse, he had come very close to putting himself in Woods' class, and worse than that, he had even taken to wearing a red shirt and black slacks in the fourth round - Tiger' very own Sunday vestments.

That sounds suspiciously like calling Tiger Woods out.

Let's not forget what happened to the last two guys who had the audacity to think out loud that they thought they might be able to beat Woods. Rory Sabbatini and Stephen Ames got the famous Woods contempt full-bore, and then certain Woods sycophants in the media fed them into the shredder.

The only thing worse than calling Woods out is calling him out when he can get you on a course he owns, and he did win eight times at Palmer's Bay Hill.

Reed is only 23, so maybe he didn't know of such things. On the other hand, maybe he did and just didn't give a damn.

Where Reed might have got the idea that he's pretty good would be the three wins he's posted in seven months.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised about winning three times," he said.

He won the Wyndham Championship last August, then the Humana Challenge in January (shooting the first three rounds in 63-63-63), then the WGC-Cadillac Championship a few weeks ago. He's only the fifth player to have won three tournaments before he turned 24, and he has until his August 5 birthday to add a few more. One other player has three wins this season, Jimmy Walker, 35, who seems to have drawn more attention because he likes to photograph the heavens for relaxation. Ordinarily, two guys with three wins each would be big news, but Tiger Woods has a sore back.

Woods has been resting it, hoping to be in shape for the Masters in three weeks, and the Palmer was to be his warm-up. But he called in sick Tuesday afternoon, and now the question is whether those spasms will subside in time for him to go to Augusta in search of his fifth green jacket. Reed, on the other hand, will be in his first Masters.

After winning the Cadillac, Reed was asked to explain why he was presuming to wear the Tiger Woods' red-and-black. Some guys have worn black, some red, but the exact shirt-slacks combination was going too far. His explanation was part admiration and part me-too.

"Well, the best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants, a red shirt," Reed said. "I always thought it would be cool to wear black and red come Sunday. I did it when I was in juniors; I did it in amateur golf. It's one of those things that I've been comfortable wearing it and, you know, obviously he's been comfortable wearing it. Just happens to be that we both wear it on Sunday now."

Sounds like a dab of humility and a dash of in-your-face there.

In the final round of the Cadillac, Reed brushed off a faltering Woods, and added his third pro victory after an outstanding amateur career.

"I don't see a lot of guys that have done that besides Tiger Woods and the legends of the game," Reed said. "I believe in myself, especially with how hard I've worked. I'm one of the top-five players in the world. I feel like I've proven myself."

That drew the attention of none other than the master of the subtle observation, NBC's Johnny Miller. "Wow," Miller said. "That is quite a comment. It's better to do it first and talk about it second."

What didn't Miller understand about three wins in seven months?

Reed was asked, by the way, for that top five. He said Woods, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell and Dustin Johnson. But in a burst of modesty, he didn't say in what order. "I didn't know," Reed added, "where I was going to be in the top-five."

If golf is looking for something to do while Tiger Woods rests his aching back, it might start paying attention to Patrick Reed.

Marino Parascenzo can assure you that hanging around with great and famous pro golfers does nothing to help your game. They just won't give you the secret. But it makes for a dandy career. As a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (now retired), Parascenzo covered the whole gamut of sports - Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt, Penn State and others - but golf was his favorite. As the beat writer for the paper, he covered all the stateside majors and numerous other pro events, and as a freelancer handled reporting duties for the British Open and other tournaments overseas - in Britain, Spain, Italy, the Caribbean, South Africa, China and Malayasia. Marino has won more than 20 national golf-writing awards, along with state and regional honors. He has received the Memorial Tournament's Golf Journalism Award and the PGA of America's Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines, among them Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and Golf Magazine, and in anthologies and foreign publications. He also wrote the history of Oakmont Country Club. Parascenzo is a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America and is on its board of directors. He is the founder and chairman of the GWAA's Journalism Scholarship Program. He is a graduate of Penn State and was an adjunct instructor in journalism at Pitt.