2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure: Patrick Reed vs. Jon Rahm
Harry Trump/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm
2:30 p.m.: Patrick Reed (-10) and Jon Rahm (-9)
Ah, so you’ve chosen to watch your money at work. Nothing like sweating your way around Augusta National on a Sunday afternoon, as you loved Rahm at 12-1 pre-tournament odds and hammered him on outright bets and all sorts of matchups, then re-upped this morning at +220, the last thing you did after parking your car on Washington Road.
The 25-year-old Spaniard is now the second-ranked player in the world, a byproduct of brilliant recent play that includes 10 finishes of third or better in his last 18 worldwide starts, dating back to last year’s U.S. Open. The only remaining hole in his resume is a major championship, but that’s coming soon — perhaps even later today, you’re hoping. Last year, he was 11th or better at three of the four majors; the year before, he posted a couple of fourth-place results.
Anyone who believes Rahm is already behind the superstar curve is unfairly comparing him to the early-career major victories of players like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth — or even his Spanish hero, Seve Ballesteros. Each of them was 22 or younger when they first won, but that shouldn’t mean Rahm’s career trajectory is anything but soaring.
As you watch him make his way to the first tee, he just looks like a guy who’s ready to win. Broad-shouldered, fiery and oozing with confidence, he might hit a bad shot somewhere or make a mental error, but Rahm isn’t the type who’s going to wilt in the spotlight of the moment.
There’s a bonus that comes with watching Rahm all day, you quickly realize, as it doesn’t hurt that he’ll be joined by Reed, the 2018 champion, who’s become the most polarizing player in the game.
Estranged from his parents, accused of cheating, shunned by (at least some of) his fellow players, Reed is the antithesis of everything that most golf fans want in a world-class player. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about him, though, is that he wears the role of villain like a badge of honor. The more he’s lustily booed and heckled on the golf course, the more Reed digs in and plays his best golf.
Already this year, he was yelled at by a spectator while hitting a potential winning putt at Kapalua — heckled in Maui, of all places! — and a video went viral on social media at TPC Sawgrass, when a fan — politely, really — asked Reed if he would sign his shovel, on obvious reference to his much-publicized cheating accusation from late last year in the Bahamas.
In-between those incidents, he won in Mexico, shrugging off continued daily post-round questions about those accusations.
All of which makes following this pairing that much more enticing: Here at Augusta National, the most demure setting on Planet Earth, there’s no chance any patron would take a chance at losing their badge by heckling Reed … right? But who knows, you figure, if they’ll hound him in Hawaii, they can do it anywhere.
At precisely 2:29 p.m., Reed and Rahm exchange a fist-bump and lukewarm “good luck” messages. Reed is first off the tee. He takes a few practice swings, waggles a couple of times and rips a big draw down the right side. You don’t watch the ball flight, though, you’re more interested in whether some bold heckler decides to speak up at the most inopportune time.