Nassau, Bahamas, November 30:The two co-leaders at the end of the first round of the Hero World Challenge, Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed, are both introverts in a sense, and yet they couldn’t be more different.
Reed and Cantlay lead the field by three shots. They are chased by Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson. Justin Rose, who can get back to World No.1 if he finishes T-3 or better is T-7 with a 70.
Cantlay is quiet and keeps to himself after “getting kicked in the teeth over and over and over” in his own words during an interview in August in the United States edition of the Golf Digest. He was a prodigy who won every amateur award there was to be to won, including being World No.1 amateur for a record 54 weeks – he was No. 1 for 55 weeks in all – being signed up by the same company (Excel) and manager (Mark Steinberg), as Tiger Woods. He was just 20 and they say he was rising faster than Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas or Jon Rahm.
He won his second start on the Web.com Tour in Colombia in 2013 and then suffered a back injury while warming up at the range.
He got his PGA card in 2014, but over the period of three years 2014-16, he played just nine events. He played no events counting towards world ranking in 2015 or 2016 as the back injury literally laid him out flat.
When he was trying to come back with therapy and rehab at the end of 2015, he was hoping to get back sometime in 2016. But in February a doctor told him not to even try that for a year. So, 2015 and 2016 were lost.
But in between he lost his best friend from High-school and part-time caddie Chris Roth in a freak accident while the two were out in town in Newport in 2016. Roth was killed in a hit-and-run accident. He was devastated.
About all those travails, he recently told Golf digest US, “The pain I had been in for those past three years was nothing like this. I know other people tie my injury and Chris' death together, but one is temporary, and the other is permanent.”
He is now slowly making his way back – he was second at Valspar in 2017 on medical extension, won the Shriners Hospital Open at the end of 2017 (it counted for 2018 season) and then finished second at the same event a month ago when it was counting for 2019 season. He had a fine 2018 with seven Top-10s, including the runner-up place. He made the Tour Championship and is now in Top-20 of the world. He is back.
This week Cantlay is collecting money for Californian wildfires – he hails from California – by donating $ 500 for each birdie he makes. He made seven in the first round.
Cut to the other Patrick. Reed. Another hugely talented golfer, but one who has been news more for ‘wrong’ things than right. He has had problems with the law for underage drinking, went on probation and community service and fellow golfers at college doubted his integrity. But his talent was undeniable. He shifted form University of Georgia to Augusta State and won the NCAA Division I for them twice before turning pro.
As a pro, he called himself as one of the most talented players much to annoyance of seniors; but by 24 he joined a select band of players who had won three PGA Tour events – the others were Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. Jordan Spieth would follow him.
Yet he was aloof, was said to have strained relations with his parents, who while being less than half an hour away from Augusta National were not invited by him as he won the Masters this year. The parents are heart-broken and have tried to reach out, but Reed has refused to respond and stuck to his wife and her family, who his parents were once said to have disapproved of.
In 2016, Reed always an aggressive player in Ryder Cup, gave the Europeans a taste of that and was nicknamed as he went toe to toe before Reed beat Rory McIlroy 1-up in a scintillating display of golf, that earned Reed the sobriquet – Captain America.
Two years on, as US Ryder Cup captain split the winning combo of Spieth and Reed and US were routed in the event, Reed lashed out at the captain, Jim Furyk and said Spieth did not want to play with him for reasons he does not know. He claimed it affected the US team performance. The controversy refuses to die as Reed sticks to his utterances, much to the discomfort of all, including Woods, who will be captain for 2019 Presidents Cup for which both Reed and Spieth will make the team.
Earlier in the year when Reed won the Green Jacket in Augusta, where played successful college golf, there were more fans and sympathy for Rickie Fowler, who lost to him, than Reed. But Reed is not bothered. He says he just wants to play the best golf he can and that’s that.
On the first day, he did just that and did not hold his punches back, though he did refuse to say what Woods had spoken to him about. “That stays between us.” But he also said Spieth has his number and he could call and clear it up. Clearly Reed does not shy away from a scrap and it does not affect his game or what he does.
As for why is he here, when the tournament is somewhat unofficial, but offers World Ranking points and does not count towards FedExCup or Ryder Cup or President’s Cup, he said “I love the place, I love the golf course, and any way to support Tiger as well as support the Hero Challenge is something I want to do.”