Masters Winners Have Good Nerves – No Exceptions

 Patrick Reed Shows Great Nerves, Holds Off Best at Masters

I had to stop and think about how long I’ve been watching this tournament. It comes well over half a century, and I don’t believe that I’ve ever missed a year. Still, as an adult, I don’t watch the Masters in the same way I once did, and I miss the old days. In the beginning, the Masters experience rivaling the years most important holidays was like watching an epic movie with heroes, villains, and constant surprises. It was like watching Zorro, and when Seve Ballesteros won at Augusta, it was without a doubt watching Zorro, in the flesh. However, the most common thread of all the Masters tournaments is that the question between round 3 and 4 has always been the same. Does this leader have the nerves to hold of this absurdly talented pack chasing him? Sometimes he did, and sometimes he didn’t. The whole thing, apart from the physical golf, was the drama of the human struggle, expressed differently in the face and body language of each competitor. Dress it up in any etiquette you wish, it’s no less fascinating than a Viking duel to the death.

As one of the commentators in the final round suggested, there is a type of nerves meant for chasing a leader, and another required for holding onto a lead. No one can run out the clock. Somebody has to dictate the action for four days, where averages can catch up to an unusually lucky day.  This was Patrick Reed’s day to showcase his sterling set of nerves, a feat he carried off brilliantly. I didn’t expect it Another comment suggested that Reed is a “passionate” player. He shows it, and I mistakenly took that for weakness. Youth’s way of watching the Masters gave way to an adult’s view of human theater. Reed captured the flag, then had his duel with every challenger, emerging victorious. Every one of them can be found in classical to modern theater, with a variety of results.

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Reed fretted openly over almost every shot, actually camouflaging his control over the self trying to win his first major, the Masters. He appeared like the hapless runner-up type in his reactions to both good and bad, but that was a false exterior. Somewhere in there, he believed, big time. The day began with fending off Rory McIlroy. Everyone knows what Rory can do if his fuse gets lit. Many thought that Reed would lose a few to par on his last day, and that Rory would pass him by, but there were the nerves again. Reed bent once or twice, but he gave up nothing. Rory is a “passionate” player as well, which simply means that he shows it. I am convinced that every player on tour is passionate, or they couldn’t do what they do. With a quasi Mickey Rooney smile and bouncy demeanor, Rory appears to be more successful than many in talking himself out of a bad shot. He still hits them, but gets over them more quickly – at least, that’s what it looks like. Then Reed had to deal with Jordan Spieth, the cold-eyed scientist of the game. Nick Faldo called him the High IQ golfer. Spieth caught fire and threatened from far back. A leader with less nerve might have folded right there, but Reed wouldn’t have it. Then came Rickie Fowler, with his grim Shakespearean frown.  When he gives that look, I believe him, as if he were on the verge of saying  “Until great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him.” In other words, the best game face on tour.  A smaller guy, like Rory, Fowler  doesn’t bounce. He moves with weight and laser-like intensity. Fowler is the one who almost caught Reed, even birdieing the final hole to give it flavor and a little “ulp” factor. Henrik Stenson, much like Spieth, doesn’t outwardly respond to every shot. He’ll show you the shot, but never the gears behind it. These men walk around with their talent ready at the waiting, and just wait for lightning to strike. Reed’s nerves didn’t let that happen, either. John Rahm put in an appearance that looked threatening for a while. I would call him a “moody, on the sleeve” player, whether he really is or not. He telegraphed that things were going badly when they weren’t, so I had to wait to see for myself where the shot went. He wouldn’t give me an honest opinion. Reed said “no dice.”
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Through it all, Patrick Reed fought back, with no passive surrender for protecting a lead, usually fatal at the Masters. We have seen him play well many times, and we have seen him win, but now we know him. He can play King of the Hill and stay there on the greatest day of the year. Zorro may be gone, but what a drama – what nerves.

 

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