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A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Patrick Reed Masters his demons

Patrick Reed is a Masters champion. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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Surprised to see Patrick Reed slip on the Green Jacket last Sunday?

You shouldn’t be.

This one played right into Reed’s hands. Think Ryder Cup without the finger-to-his-lips shushing or the hand-cupped-to-his-ear, can’t-hear-you headshaking. Minus the red-white-and-blue vs. Europe trappings and rowdy crowd.

Yes, it was Reed in azalea pink vs. the crowd favorites. A baby-faced 27-year-old Houstonian taking dead aim on his first major in the wake of Jordan Spieth looking for his second jacket, Rory McIlroy looking to complete a Grand Slam and Rickie Fowler searching for major No. 1.

He knew going in it wasn’t going to be easy, but neither is the Ryder Cup.

He was leading through three rounds, but he was the underdog.

Most of the crowd wanted someone else to be the last man standing that day and he knew it. McIlroy tried to get into Reed’s mind Saturday night saying the pressure was all on the sometimes brash American.

It didn’t work. And he, above all others, should have known better.

Reed and McIlroy gave us an incredible hour-plus of high-drama and must-see theater in the leadoff singles match the final day of the 2016 Ryder Cup. They hit ridiculous shots and sank unbelievable putts in a four-hole stretch that mesmerized the crowds and a television audience. And at the end of the incredible take-this-no-you-take-this heavyweight bout, Reed won 1-up.

So when Reed spent Masters Sunday out-putting and outlasting Spieth, Fowler and McIlroy – to name a few – it was so easy to flash forward from the Butler Cabin ceremony to Paris this fall and the 2018 Ryder Cup.

Speith seems made for majors; Reed for Ryder Cups. Together they are America’s most formidable Ryder Cup team.

It has taken Reed just two Ryder Cups to become one of the most respected and feared players in the matches-. He’s 6-2-1 in those two matches with two singles wins and a 4-2-1 record alongside Spieth in foursomes and four-balls combined.

Reed heard the roars for Spieth and Fowler on the back nine. He felt the crowd pulling for McIlroy at the start of the round.

Like we said, it played right into his hands.

If you look close enough into that baby face, you’ll see the grit. He looks through people. He sets his jaw and flattens his lips and tells the field - or his match play opponent - to bring it on.

At Ryder Cups, he can play to the crowds with the shushing and ear-cupping. Playing to an Augusta crowd means a fist pump after a great putt or a smile as that helicopter finish of his off the tee sends the ball safely down the middle of a tight fairway.

Last fall, he finished runner-up to Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship and just knew a major was somewhere in Reed’s future. A few years ago, he drew criticism for his thoughts that he should be in the top five, but here he is having jumped from 24th to 11th after winning that first major.

He has three more majors – and THE PLAYERS – between now and that trip to Paris and he has a dream that, one day, the Ryder Cup will come down to his singles match.

“I want it all on my shoulders. I want that pressure -- the whole country depending on me -- and everything that goes with it,’’ he told Golf Digest before the 2016 Ryder Cup. “I've wanted that my whole life.’’

He wanted a Green Jacket too.

One down. At least one more wish to go.

Coming into the week, Reed’s record at Augusta wasn’t the best. He missed the cut twice and his best finish had been a tie for 22nd in 2015. His lowest round had been 70 – twice; his scoring average was 74.5.

Yet he opened with rounds of 69-66-67 and was threatening to become the first player in Masters history to shoot four rounds in the 60s. He closed with 71, which was enough to beat Fowler by a shot and Spieth by two.

The record? It paled in comparison to the result, which, like in match play, was all that mattered.

“The biggest thing was I put too much pressure on myself (in previous Masters),’’ he said. “I went out there and I tried so hard to get the ball in the hole. I tried so hard to hit the perfect shots, that going into this week, I was just like, hey, it's golf. Go play. 

“I preached that to myself the entire week. I had my caddie remind me of that the entire week. Just be you. Play golf. If you get riled up, show it. If you aren't happy about something, it's all right. Just play golf.’’

It worked.

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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