AUGUSTA, Ga. – Patrick Reed could hear the storm coming.
All those roars Sunday at the Masters, they were like thunderbolts cracking all around him.
“I saw Jordan and Rickie storm up those leaderboards,” Reed said.
That would be Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, whose bold Sunday charges tested more than Reed’s shot making as he fought to hold them off and win his first major championship.
Spieth came from nine shots back to briefly catch Reed, with Fowler nearly catching him coming from five shots back.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Reed said. “It’s just a way of God basically saying, ‘Let’s see if you have it.’ Everyone knows you have it physically, with the talent, but do you have it mentally? Can you handle the ups and downs throughout the round?”
Reed’s breakthrough victory in the majors is further evidence the golf gods are asking tougher questions than they ever have.
Further evidence that today’s players may be more explosive and more fearless than the game has ever seen.
Further evidence that the sport is richer and deeper with young talent than it’s ever been.
Reed keeps an epic new run of young major championship winners going. He’s the fourth different player age 27 or younger to win a major over the last four majors played. That’s never happened before in the modern era.
They’re making it tougher to win multiple majors.
Nine of the last 10 major championships have been won by first-time major winners.
The last four Masters have been won by first-time major champions.
This trend is emboldening Fowler and others who haven’t won a major to believe they can follow Reed’s footsteps at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in 10 weeks.
“I am ready to go win a major,” Fowler said. “But this was kind of the first major week that I understood that, and known that, and felt that.
“So I’m ready to go. I’m really looking forward to this year and the three majors that are left.”
Rory McIlroy, who was looking to complete the career Grand Slam, got run over by Reed in their pairing together.
While McIlroy knows his golf history, he made a mistake trying to turn his major championship experience against Reed on Saturday evening, before Reed headed home to sleep on his first 54-hole lead in a major.
“I feel like all the pressure is on him,” McIlroy said. “He’s got to go out and protect that, and he’s got a few guys chasing him who are pretty big-time players. He’s got that to deal with and sleep on tonight.”
McIlroy is sharp guy, but, boy, did that tactic backfire.
McIlroy shot 74 and was pretty much irrelevant on the back nine.
While Reed may have a feistier edge than most of today’s young players, he could be the poster boy for the era’s fearless style of play.
“Patrick is not scared,” Fowler said. “He won’t back down. He’s a fighter.”
Reed reveled hearing so many prognosticators on Sunday morning pick McIlroy over him. It was like high-octane fuel for him. Same thing when he heard fans cheering more for McIlroy at the first tee, and later for Spieth and Fowler as they made their charges.
Spieth, 24, suggested after a fast start Thursday that owning a green jacket is a formidable difference maker once the first tee balls are in the air at Augusta National.
“Once you win here, you have an advantage over anybody who hasn’t won here,” Spieth said.
That makes sense, but not as much sense as it used to make, at the Masters or in any other major.
Youthful bravado is trumping experience more than it ever has.
“Patrick is a member of the Masters club now,” Spieth said. “He’ll have a green jacket forever. His name is etched in history.”
At week’s start, Gary Player said he believed somebody in his 50s could win a major now, the way players today take such care of themselves.
Actually, with so much talented youth hoisting trophies now, that feat could be more difficult than ever.
At 47, Phil Mickelson was hoping to eclipse Jack Nicklaus as the oldest winner of the Masters. He arrived at Augusta National with momentum from a victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship last month, but he barely made the cut Friday. He left Sunday conceding that time is beginning to weigh on him on these major championship stages. He will turn 48 on Saturday of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he will be looking once again to complete the career Grand Slam.
“I put a little bit too much pressure on myself in the majors now, because I know that I don’t have a ton of time to win them, especially U.S. Opens,” Mickelson said. “But these next two U.S. Opens, Shinnecock and Pebble Beach, give me two really good opportunities. So, I need to get my game sharp.”
Tiger Woods is still putting his game back together after so much time away with his back issues, but he must have left Augusta National knowing Reed makes it harder to win here in the future, that all these young first-time winners are making it harder for anyone to win.