03/10/2013

Patrick Reed conquered the Blue Monster at Doral this weekend, winning his third career tournament in his very young career. This wasn’t a fluke win either. Reed showed at the WGC Cadillac Championship that he’s the real deal.

First, there was the difficult course. The renovations gave players fits. To make matters worse, mother nature was anything but motherly. Strong winds rendered the course nearly unplayable at times. A driving rain halted play on Thursday. Only one player, Miguel Angel Jimenez, emerged bogey free on Friday.

The result was a tournament that resembled a US Open in conditions and scoring. The top 70 players in the world faced a challenge in Miami. Reed took it head on.

His opening round 68 put him atop the field. In his post round interviews, Reed oozed confidence. He believes that when he’s playing well, there’s no one in the world who can beat him.

It’s one thing to say the right things after a 68. It’s quite another to respond after a 75. Reed like the rest of the field struggled through the wind wrecked second round.

But he retook the lead with a Saturday 69. And on Sunday he donned red and black, perhaps his most brazen show of confidence, despite a certain Tiger Woods just two shots back. If Reed had succumbed to the monster, the red would have marred his weekend like red ink on a test. No one wears 99 on a hockey rink without greatness attached. Even then, you think twice. No one wears red on Sunday especially with Tiger lurking.

Reed did and turned in a decidedly Tiger performance. He reached -6 on the front nine while his closest competitors dropped strokes left and right. He took advantage of his birdie opportunities and more importantly avoided the big numbers. Or, as it meant this weekend, the water.

They call Doral “The Blue Monster” in reference to its original moniker, the blue course. On Sunday, the blue was water. Five players in the final three groups splashed their tee-shots on the impossibly difficult 18th. Over 250 balls found the water on the weekend.

By the time Reed reached 18 he nursed a two shot lead at -5. Surprising Welshman Jamie Donaldson entered 18 at -4, but in effort to avoid the water on the left, he sent his approach shot way right and found the bunker. He bogeyed from the sand.

Reed, whose longest drives cleared 320 yards on the day, put away the big stick. His iron tee shot didn’t even reach the fairway. But it stayed dry. The 23 year old eventually tapped in for bogey to capture the title.

People talk about experience when it comes to young players. “He’ll learn from this,” they say after Rory’s meltdowns on Sunday. Well, Reed looked composed throughout the final round. He’s learned from winning. Reed made several par saves on the back nine to maintain his cushioned lead. He found himself in the sand both in the fairway and around the green. He kept responding with clutch shots.

In a year that has produced a collection of surprise winners, Reed looks like he has staying power. Doral played like a major tournament with a field of the strongest golfers in the world. Dustin Johnson made an early charge on Sunday. Major winners Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner got close. Reed held strong.

His wife, who caddied for him at his Wyndham Championship in 2013, greeted him at 18. She’s been carrying the couple’s first child in lieu of the bag recently. Reed’s celebration was one of joy and assurance. He’s been here before.

He has never been to a major, though. The Masters in April will be Reed’s first crack at the green jacket. I’d count the former Augusta State Jagaur among the favorites.

Dillon Friday