AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Patrick Reed will never be regarded among the signature athletes of his generation. He is built like a beer-league softball player, and he plays a game often conquered by men who likely had trouble making their high school football and basketball teams.
But Reed did something Sunday that the greatest of the great do on muscle memory. Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan -- they forever used real or imagined slights to fuel their rage and dominate the very antagonists who slighted them in the first place. Reed joined their ranks at the Masters with some controlled fury of his own. The fans did not want him to win, and Rory McIlroy, four-time major winner, strongly suggested Reed would be feeling too much anxiety to win.
Reed rose above all the negativity, defied the American crowd that rooted instead for the Northern Irishman, and in the process made McIlroy look smaller than a dimple on his golf ball. In the end, Reed fell into the arms of his caddie and brother-in-law as a first-time major winner and as a team-event titan who proved he could manage the immense stress of individual competition as forcefully as any golfer on the planet.
"Great f---ing job," caddie Kessler Karain said in Reed's ear after his man made the 4-footer to finish at 15 under, one stroke ahead of Rickie Fowler. "It may not have been pretty, but you got the job done."
It was never going to be pretty with Patrick Reed, the golfer who collected more enemies than most on his stormy rise from boyhood prodigy to college bad boy to self-promoting PGA Tour winner to master of the Masters. Reed was kicked off his University of Georgia team, and nearly voted off his Augusta State team by his schoolmates, for offenses that ranged from alcohol-fueled misbehavior to an arrest for underage drinking to constantly talking down to lesser teammates to alleged cheating infractions. His coach at Augusta State, Josh Gregory, suspended him and warned him that his entire career was about to go up in smoke.
"After sitting down with Josh," Reed told ESPN.com in 2014, "it helped me realize it's not all me, me, me."
But it was all Reed, Reed, Reed this week at Augusta National, where fans who didn't give a damn about the back-to-back national titles he won at Augusta State greeted the quasi-local (Reed grew up in Texas) at the first tee with obligatory applause before welcoming McIlroy as if he were Elvis with a brogue.
"But that's another thing that just kind of played into my hand," Reed said. "Not only did it fuel my fire a little bit, but also, it just takes the pressure off of me and adds it back to him. I think that's the biggest thing going into a Sunday ... for me trying to win my first, for him trying to win the career Grand Slam.
"It's who is going to handle the pressure, and who is going to have more pressure on them. Honestly, I felt like a lot of that pressure was kind of lifted and kind of taken off me. ... You had a lot of the guys picking him to win over me, and it's one of those things that the more chatter you hear in your ear about expectations and everything, the harder it is to play golf."
Down 3 strokes after three rounds, McIlroy put the psychological screws to Reed on Saturday night when he surveyed the leader's majors résumé -- one lousy top-10 finish, a second at last summer's PGA Championship -- and decided that "all the pressure is on him." Reed showed two could play that mind game by using the crowd's clear preference and the predictions of a McIlroy victory (including one from Nick Faldo) to settle into the more comfortable role of underdog.
Reed landed his first tee ball near a tree on the left and bogeyed after a lousy shot out of the bunker. McIlroy landed his first tee ball in the pine straw and dry leaves on the right and hit a magnificent iron shot above the trees before making a persuasive, up-and-down save. McIlroy cut another shot from his deficit at the par-5 second but missed a short eagle putt that would've put him in a tie with Reed and left the American bloodied on the ropes. The missed haymaker changed the fight. In pursuit of becoming the sixth golfer and first European to win all four majors, McIlroy birdied only two of his final 16 holes and finished a half-dozen shots behind Reed.
"He just hung in there a little bit better than I did and got the job done," McIlroy said.
Reed did a hell of a lot more than hang in there. He repelled the amazing run of birdies put together by Jordan Spieth, whose 8-under 64 was among the best closing rounds the Masters had ever seen. Reed repelled an inspired charge from Rickie Fowler, who played the final seven holes in 4 under and birdied the 18th to force the leader to make par.
The man who had never slept on a 54-hole lead in a major sandwiched bold birdie putts at Nos. 12 and 14 around a fortunate break at the 13th, where his second shot stayed on the bank and out of the creek. On the 18th, Reed found the fairway with a drive he punctuated with a corkscrew swing out of the Arnold Palmer playbook and then landed his approach 24 feet above the hole to confront what he called "probably the fastest putt on the golf course."
Reed barely tapped that putt and still rolled it 4 feet past despite his throwing out his hands and begging it to stop. Karain, the caddie, considered whispering some words of comfort to lighten the moment but decided to step away and leave his player alone with his thoughts. As Karain surveyed Reed's body language, he decided this was the first time all afternoon that Reed was truly nervous.
"He took a deep breath," Karain said, "let it out, and then he went and made the putt."
And then the strangest thing happened. The men, women and children around the 18th green let out a roar that wasn't, you know, a roar. No, the majority of fans at Augusta National didn't want this decorated product of Augusta State to prevail. Did Team Reed notice?
"I definitely feel that way," Karain said of the fans' allegiance. "But that's OK, because sometimes that's motivating, too."
Nobody is quite sure why the golfing public has little use for Reed. Perhaps enough fans have read about his misbehavior in college or have been turned off by his brash and boastful style. (He announced in the spring of 2014 that he was already among the world's top five players.) Perhaps some are aware that Reed has been estranged from his parents, younger sister and other family members for years over issues neither side of the divide will discuss for the record. Bill and Jeannette Reed, Patrick's parents, were expected to watch the Masters in their home only a few miles from Augusta National. They are not welcome at their son's tournaments, majors or minors. Asked if his family's absence made Sunday's triumph bittersweet, Reed said, "I'm just out here to play golf and try to win golf tournaments."
Patrick has been consistently unapologetic about almost everything in his life. "It's not a popularity contest out there," he told ESPN.com in 2014. Around the same time, his old coach at Georgia, Chris Haack, recalled one of his assistants scouting Reed in a high school tournament and returning with this report: "This guy hits it close all day long but never makes anything. If he ever figures out the putter, he's going to be dangerous."
Patrick Nathaniel Reed just figured out the putter.
"It's everything we've been working hard for," said Justine, his wife and former caddie. "A lot of people, for a long time, maybe don't say his name as often as they should. That's what I think. I've always thought he's a great player. That's what he did today. He showed his true colors."
As it turned out, Reed's true color was pink, the color of his winning shirt. Reed wore Tiger Woods red on Sundays before his Nike deal gave him a softer look. It was the only thing soft about Reed's game all day.
"He didn't let the roars and the crowd really get to him," Karain said.
In the end, Patrick Reed quieted them down with his precision and poise. That was his biggest Augusta National victory Sunday -- the sweet sound of silence amid the towering Georgia pines.