HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

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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Jose Urquidy is a surprising choice to start Game 2. Photo by Getty Images.

After a long and tumultuous season, the Houston Astros made it to their 3rd World Series in five years and will take on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

Houston had the better overall regular season record, so games 1 & 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park while games 3-5 will be held at Truist Park in Atlanta.

(If necessary, the final two contests will be played back at Minute Maid Park).

The Braves got this far by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALDS 3-1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games (4-2).

Atlanta prevailed with timely hitting from guys like Joc Pederson, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario performing like an MVP this postseason.

The Braves received solid pitching outings from guys like Ian Anderson, Max Fried and former Astro Charlie Morton.

Atlanta used clutch hitting and solid pitching to make to their first World Series since 1999.

Meanwhile, the Astros made it back to the World Series by defeating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS 3-1 and out-slugged the Red Sox four games to two.

According to Fox Bet, the Astros are favored at -154 to win the World Series. This is certainly an obtainable goal for Houston's team as they have the experience, hitting and pitching to compete with anyone.

Can Houston's bats stay hot?

The most intriguing matchup this series will be the Astros' bats facing off against this Braves pitching staff. On paper, Houston's lineup seems to be favored for their depth. Jose Altuve at the top of the batting order is always a threat to get on base, and behind him are a plethora of hitters who can drive in multiple runs.

The two best bats this postseason thus far for the Astros are ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez (.522 batting average) and this year's American League batting title champion Yuli Gurriel (.455 batting average). The Cuban natives have lit up pitching and will look to continue their torrid hitting in the World Series.

Other Astros who could be impactful at the plate against the Braves include Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. All three of their batting average's in the .200's respectfully and could come up big at any time.

This lineup is so deep, Atlanta's pitchers won't receive many breaks, if at all this series.

Will the pitching step up again?

Losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the World Series certainly isn't ideal, but not impossible to overcome as proven in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Framber Valdez pitched the best game of his career when he threw 8 innings and surrendered only one run in Game 3, while Luis Garcia had his best start of the postseason and received the Game 6 win. Both of these pitchers have stepped up in McCullers' absence and will have a huge impact on the series. Valdez is set to start Game 1 on Tuesday night.

If Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke can also pitch deeper into games, there will be less stress on the bullpen and give the Astros a better chance to stay in games. And we won't have to wait long to see Urquidy, as he will start Game 2, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker.

In an ideal scenario, the Astros' starting pitchers should throw six innings of work and let Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly closeout games as they have all season.

Of course this is the best-case scenario, which doesn't always happen, but other arms can be used to bridge the gaps that include Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia in short relief outings and Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Even if a starter has a clunker of a start, this bullpen has done a great job of keeping things close and setting up the Astros for success.

Will this be Carlos Correa's "Last Dance" with Astros?

One can only imagine what is going on in Carlos Correa's mind right now. No one is implying that the free agent to be will not be focused this series, but it's hard to fathom this upcoming offseason isn't a distraction right now.

The 27-year-old shortstop is set to receive multiple offers from different teams and land one of the richest contracts once this season concludes.

If this truly is his final season with the Astros, why not go out on top and win one more title before moving on?

Let's hope this "Last Dance" for Correa is a slow one, so we can all enjoy it a little longer.

Will Dusty's experience prove to be a difference-maker?

Dusty Baker's experience could be beneficial for Houston's chances of hoisting another trophy as he has managed teams in parts of 24 seasons.

He's the only skipper to ever lead five franchises to the postseason and obtain more than 2,000 career victories.

This is the second time he as taken a club to the World Series. He took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the Fall Classic but lost to the Angels in seven games.

It's safe to assume the 72-year-old seems eager to win his first championship as a manager to cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Final projection

As previously mentioned, the Astros are favored to win this series. If Houston can continue to stay hot at the plate, receive solid outings from their pitchers and just play Astros baseball, there is a good chance this city will have yet another Commissioner's Trophy in their display case.

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