By Clara Facchetti
LOS ANGELES — Calm. Human. Outspoken. Opinionated. These are some of the unfamiliar words that fans used to describe American golfer Patrick Reed at Riviera Country Club this week.
Reed was in L.A. to play in the Genesis Invitational, where he finished in 51st place at 2 over par. Plagued by college rumors that accused him of cheating in golf and stealing from teammates (which he always denied), and several career incidents, most notably a recent one involving sand tampering at the Hero World Challenge last December, Reed has had to deal with an unsavory reputation.
Yet he is not entirely disliked, as a small but nonetheless fierce fan base followed him from hole to hole at Riviera. Reed’s fans said they were drawn to many of his qualities, such as his humanity, relateability and strong mental game, as well as his performances in golf.
“He’s just a good American boy and he plays the American golf-style,” said Kevin Vu, who watched Reed’s first round at the Genesis Invitational. “I’m really impressed with his mental game.”
In the past, Reed has made comments that have led to backlash. Following a win at the 2014 World Golf Championship, Reed made a controversial declaration.
“I have three wins on the PGA Tour — I truly believe that I am a top-five player in the world,” he said. “I don’t see a lot of guys that have done that besides Tiger Woods and the legends of the game.”
These comments, followed by altercations with the crowd during two Ryder Cups, and his tendency to use colorful language, contributed to his lack of popularity.
But his fans have kept on supporting him and enjoy his personality. Yoshi Enoki Jr., who supported Reed on Thursday, said that golf fans have gotten used to watching “nice guys,” and that in the past, golfers could be more outspoken and not suffer the bad rap that Reed receives.
“People don’t realize how outspoken Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were [in their rivalry],” Enoki Jr. said. “That’s the part [other golfers] don’t really show you nowadays, but Reed’s just doing exactly what they were doing back in the day.”
Enoki Jr. added that the current culture in America has made it easier for people to target unconventional characters.
“Unfortunately, he’s getting a bad rap because of social media, and because you supposedly cannot have a mouth,” he said. “Patrick just speaks his mind … Does he need to go and apologize to the public all the time? Is that the world we live in now?”
Most Reed fans said they agreed with this sentiment. Laurie Middleton, an attorney who came to watch Reed at Riviera, said she enjoyed his character.
“I like his drive and his fire and his personality,” she said. “There are so many people that are boring on the tour. He brings a lot of fire, a lot of energy and a lot of great golf.”
Middleton added she was drawn to Reed because of his humanity.
“I became a fan when he relayed the story of his wife almost dying in the bathtub,” she said, referencing Reed’s withdrawal from the pro-am in the Franklin Templeton Shootout in 2014, after his wife suffered a grand mal seizure.
“I wasn’t a fan before because he’s a loudmouth and he’s brash, but he showed his human side,” Middleton said.
Reed’s relatability is another factor fans said they appreciate. Vu, who said he started following Reed a year ago, said the Texan was “very approachable.”
“He has a nice, relaxed, calm demeanor,” Vu said. “He’s somebody that you can probably just have a beer at the bar with. I like that.”
John Brynjolfsson, a chief investment officer at an investment management company, said he started watching Reed after he read a “one-sided article” about the golfer in Golf Digest. Brynjolfsson said he admired the way Reed dealt with the stigma and bad reputation.
“I’m pretty impressed by people who don’t base their self-esteem on other people’s opinion,” he said.
Mary and Randy Cornmesser, a middle-aged couple from California, cheered as Reed putted his last ball on Thursday evening.
“He doesn’t have to worry about what other people think, he just does it right,” said Randy. “Go Patrick!”