Regular Season and Conference Tourney Champions, since 2000

Thesis: Regular season conference titles are far more valuable than conference tournament titles at predicting success. In fact, winning the conference tournament, especially without a regular season title, actually seems to hurt.

—Of the 60 Final Four teams since 2000, 17 (29 percent) won both the regular season and conference tournament titles, 15 (25.4 percent) won neither title, 20 (33.3 percent) won only the regular season title, and only seven (11.9 percent) won just the conference tournament.

—Of the 30 teams to make the title game since 2000, 22 have won their regular-season conference championship, for a solid 73.3 percent.

—Just 13 of the 29 (the Pac-12 had no conference championship in 2000) won the conference tournament title — 45 percent.

—Eleven of the 29 won both titles, 11 won just the regular-season title, and only three won just the conference tournament title. Three teams made the championship game in that time span without winning at least one of the two titles—all in the last three years.

Conclusion: In terms of making the championship game, winning neither the conference regular season or tournament is just as valuable as winning only the tournament. In terms of making the Final Four, twice as many teams who win neither title make it as teams who won only the conference tournament. When picking your brackets, avoid trendy conference tournament titleists.

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Results of Imbalanced Teams, Since 2004

Criteria: Top 10 offense or defense by KenPom rankings, worse than 70th on the other side of the ball.

2014: Michigan (Elite 8), Duke (Round of 64), Creighton (Round of 32), Iowa (Round of 64), Iona (First Round minor tourney), Baylor (Sweet 16), Ohio State (Round of 64), VCU (Round of 64), Saint Louis (Round of 32), Cincinnati (Round of 64), San Diego State (Sweet 16)
2013
: Iowa State (Round of 32), Colorado State (Round of 32), Creighton (Round of 32), N.C. State (Round of 64), Wisconsin (Round of 64), Georgetown (Round of 64), Saint Louis (Round of 32), Stephen F. Austin (First round NIT), Oregon (Sweet 16)
2012
: Missouri (Round of 64), Creighton (Round of 32), Florida (Elite 8), Indiana (Sweet 16), Purdue (Round of 32), Duke (Round of 64), Louisville (Final 4), South Florida (Round of 32), Alabama (Round of 64), Virginia (Round of 64)
2011: Notre Dame (Round of 32), Oakland (Round of 64), Arizona (Elite 8), Colorado (NIT semifinals), FSU (Sweet 16), St. Peter’s (Round of 64), Alabama (NIT finals), Seton Hall (no tournament)
2010: Notre Dame (Round of 64), Cornell (Sweet 16), Cal (Round of 32), USC (no tournament), FSU (Round of 64), Purdue (Sweet 16), Temple (Round of 64), Dayton (NIT champions)
2009: Arizona (Sweet 16), Illinois (Round of 64), Stephen F. Austin (Round of 64), FSU (Round of 64)
2008: Oregon (Round of 64), Drake (Round of 64), IUPUI (no tournament), Virginia Tech (NIT third round), Miss. St. (Round of 32)
2007: Arizona (Round of 64), Notre Dame (Round of 64), BYU (Round of 64), Southern Illinois (Sweet 16), Illinois (Round of 64), UConn (no tournament)
2006: Gonzaga (Sweet 16), Notre Dame (2nd round NIT), Boston College (Sweet 16), Tennessee (Round of 32), Iowa (Round of 64), Southern Illinois (Round of 64), Washington State (no tournament), Texas A&M (Round of 32), Bradley (Sweet 16)
2005: Gonzaga (Round of 32), Wake Forest (Round of 32), Washington (Sweet 16), Arizona (Round of 64), Oklahoma State (Sweet 16), Washington State (no tourney), Minnesota (Round of 64), Iowa State (Round of 32), Nevada (Round of 32)
2004: Arizona (Round of 64), Wake Forest (Sweet 16), Michigan State (Round of 64), Louisville (Round of 64), Richmond (Round of 64)

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The 15 Greatest Moments in Duke-UNC History

Last night, Alex Yegiyants and I decided to make a list of the 15 greatest moments in Duke-UNC history. It wasn’t easy, and I know some of you reading this will disagree with our choices. Alex and I know a lot about this rivalry, but in the end, this is an objective exercise, and of course there’s room for debate. Some, for instance, might wonder why didn’t include the Austin Rivers game, or the Jeff Capel shot from 1995. In the end, though, these are our choices, and we hope you enjoy the list. Let’s begin!

15. The “Blue Devil” Terror (Mar. 4, 1923)

In 1922, Duke students chose the nickname “Blue Devils” for the school’s sports team, after a group of French flying aces who had toured campus several years earlier. With a new name came the need for a new mascot, and in the absence of student volunteers, an enthusiastic local 54-year-old homeless man named Frederick Van De Bergh was offered the job. Nobody realized it at the time, but Van De Bergh suffered from severe psychosis (called ‘the Spinster’s Complaint’ at the time), and had been institutionalized six times for threatening to assassinate six consecutive presidents. Despite this, he proved immensely popular with Duke students, and some of his racier dance routines—particularly “Old Tom’s Toenails” and “Where’s My Butter Boy?”—are still performed at Duke today. On March 4, though, when North Carolina came to town, Van De Bergh suffered his latest psychotic spell and showed up at the gym completely naked, covered head-to-toe in blue body paint and patches of cat fur. The students went wild, but their enthusiasm quickly turned to shock as Van De Bergh ran up to the Carolina players and attacked them in what one local paper called a “rabid biting frenzy.” It took over 30 minutes for Van De Bergh to be subdued, at which point Duke was forced to forfeit the game. Van De Bergh was institutionalized yet again, and spent the next six years in a strait jacket at Butner Hospital near the Virginia border. Upon his release, he returned to Durham, where he later served as a respected member of the city council.

14. “Billy Overalls” (1979-1982)

Carolina fans didn’t know exactly what to expect when William Cheevers, a 7’2” center from the Ozarks Mountains of northern Arkansas, came to campus in the late ‘70s. Some were put off by the fact that he spoke his own strange hill dialect, while others were offended by the fierce ‘dead animal’ odor emanating from his body. And what kind of basketball player wears overalls and hunting boots on the court? Four years later, though, after the man they called ‘Billy Overalls’ had amassed an 8-0 record against rival Duke, there were no complaints—even after he relieved himself on television before attempting a free throw in 1981. Cheevers was arrested for sodomizing a dog a year after his graduation, and died in prison from dysentery in 1985, but his memory lives on in Chapel Hill.

13. The Finale (February 28, 1983)

Unlike most of the other entries on this list, this game is notable for what didn’t happen. Although the game was highly anticipated, one event held the nation’s attention even more: The finale of the hit show M*A*S*H. As game time rolled around and not a single player or coach had yet hit the court, fans became anxious in their seats. Eventually, a camera crew made its way to the Duke locker room to find both teams and coaching staffs huddled around a small tv, focused intently on the final exploits by the gang from the 4077. When asked about the game later, the players would only discuss the finale. Most found it to be a satisfying farewell, with one notable exception in Michael Jordan, who had rooted adamantly for the North Koreans during the show’s 11-year run and was upset that a majority of the American characters survived.

12. The Adlai Stevenson Game (Feb. 19, 1956)

In the spring of 1956, with the presidential election just months away, Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower were neck-and-neck in what looked like the closest race in United States history. That was before Adlai Stevenson decided to attend a Duke-UNC game in Chapel Hill, hoping to curry favor in what would surely be a battleground state in November. His close friend and Durham City Council president Frederick Van De Bergh made sure he had courtside seats, but things took a turn for the worse when Carolina star Lennie Rosenbluth attempted to save a ball from going out of bounds. Reaching for the ball, Rosenbluth managed to accidentally punch Stevenson in the ear, at which point the candidate’s face began to swell into the shape of a grotesque oval. Thinking he would be seen as a “dandy” if he left the game, Stevenson refused to move, but his appearance disgusted the spectators. “Why, that man has the head of an egg!” shouted UNC coach Frank McGuire, and soon the cry was taken up in the entire stadium. The Eisenhower campaign seized on the moment, and soon Stevenson was being called an “egghead” in all corners of the country. He lost all credibility, and was routed by Eisenhower in November.

11. Death by Tobacco (Feb. 4, 1875)

In just the tenth year of the budding rivalry, long before television or radio had even entered the equation, Duke was coached by tobacco baron James Buchanan Duke—the man who had given his name to the Durham University. At that time, J.B. Duke saw basketball less as a sport that could succeed on its own merits, and more as an advertising opportunity for the Duke Tobacco Company. “All ye wretched cagers shall have thy maws filled by the black weed when-so-e’er ye trod yon boards!” he famously told his players, and so it was—for the first 10 years of Duke basketball, the players were forced to chew tobacco whenever they took a foul shot, at which point they would spit the juice into a spittoon held by a manager and loudly pronounce, “that there is the state’s finest tobaccy!” In 1875, though, J.B. Duke took it to the next level, forcing his players to chew tobacco at every moment, not just on the foul line. By the game’s end—a 54-12 victory for North Carolina—four players had died from tobacco poisoning (now called “Duke’s Complaint”), and three others were hospitalized for asphyxiation. All three later died, and J.B. Duke was forced to abandon his advertising campaign. A statue of the great businessman can still be seen in front of the chapel on Duke’s west campus.

10. The Experiment (Mar. 15, 1943)

In the midst of the second World War, with morale at an all-time low, the presidents of Duke and North Carolina met and mutually decided that scoring in the college game was too low. Americans needed something to cheer for, they knew, and the low-scoring affairs that had come to dominate the NCAA game were no longer doing the job. In a bold move, they decided to expand the size of the basket—from its current diameter of 18 inches to a full 24 feet. The hoop now took up the entire sideline, and to make scoring even easier, they lowered it from ten feet to six. The result was an offensive explosion—defense proved impossible, and UNC prevailed by a score of 432-412 that day. Unfortunately, the students didn’t enjoy this new brand of high-octane basketball, and they destroyed both baskets and lit the gymnasium on fire in what came to be called the “Ides of March Riot.” The next season, in an attempt to atone for their mistake, the presidents reduced the diameter of the hoop to a mere 10 inches—barely enough to fit a basketball—and Duke won 2-0 in seven overtimes.

9. The Mask (March 2, 1997)

As evidenced by his amazing performance in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Vince Carter was a great showman. However, fans of UNC and Duke got an early glimpse of Carter’s prowess for theatrics when he played an entire game in 1997 wearing a Ronald Reagan mask with holes cut out for his eyes. Carter had an especially effective game, and led his team in scoring. The highlight of the game came halfway through the second period when Carter capped an alley oop with an aggressive windmill dunk and a boisterous shout of “Reaganomics Bitch!” To this day, it’s unclear exactly what message Carter was trying to send with the mask. Some say it was meant to be a not so subtle jab at Duke University, which was then considered to be an elitist and economically driven institution by some. However, others have noted that prior to the game, Carter exhibited embarrassment at a zit that formed on his forehead. A third theory, recently popularized, posits that Vince Carter is just a huge Ronald Reagan fan. Supporters of this argument point to his autobiography, Vince Carter: Memoirs of a Huge Ronald Reagan Fan.

8. Battle of the Greens (Jan. 31, 1996)

This game started off somewhat uncharacteristically with Duke taking a 42-30 lead at the half. But the gap in the score didn’t stop this one from ending up a stone cold classic, as with 17 minutes left in the second half, the players decided to drop all pretense and reveal that this battle of the blues was actually, a battle of greens. Fans stood in awe as, one by one, players for both teams shed their humanoid shells and revealed the scaly green reptile skin underneath. The game ultimately ended as a one point victory for UNC, but will be remembered by most as the event that heralded the end of humanity’s reign on a little planet we call Earth.

7. The Kiss (Feb. 24, 1989)

There’s no love lost between the different shades of blue—or so they’d have you believe. But in 1989, at Cameron Indoor Stadium, we saw that love and hate aren’t quite the opposing forces we might have believed. In the midst of a close game, with less than three minutes left, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski approached center court to confront the referee at the same time. When the official slipped away, the two furious coaches were left staring into each other’s eyes, and we all remember what happened next—a kiss for the ages, two technical fouls, and the only “draw” in the history of the long rivalry.

6. Wojo Shrugged (Mar. 3, 1997)

In what onlookers describe as one of the single oddest point guard performances of all time, a 1997 game between these rivals was defined by the actions of a single man, Steve Wojciechowski (or simply, Wojo). Although generally considered a reliable and team-oriented point guard, Wojo played very unlike himself. He would not pass the ball to open teammates and neglected easy alley oop plays on at least three separate occasions. At one point in the first half, Wojo went a full three and a half minutes without passing the ball a single time, a stretch during which he took seven contested field goals. Afterwards, Wojo was pulled by Coach K for the remainder of the game. When questioned by media, it was revealed that Wojo had read Ayn Rand’s opus Atlas Shrugged the week before game. “Why should I pass to these guys?” Wojo asked the press. “Why should I help them build monuments to themselves on my back?” When a media member pointed out that this was a point guards role on the team, Wojo became noticeably distraught. He then wrote “cog” on his forehead with a sharpie and lay down on the floor.

5. The Oil Game (Jantober 33, 2499)

In what historians consider one of the most important events in history. The Necromancers of UNC took on the Duke University Skelebots in a game that would determine which of Earth’s two remaining life forms would be allowed to have the planet’s final barrel of oil. Many saw this as an inevitable outcome as the Necromancers and Skelebots were the only species to truly thrive after the Singularity that occurred nearly 500 years earlier. The game was close throughout with both sides leading at various points. Necromancer shooting guard Rihanna Carol Oates led all scorers with 32, but it ultimately wasn’t enough as the game ended when the dying embers of our sun exploded in a marvelous cacophony of light.

4. Do the (New) Wave (March 15, 1973)

In 1973, Duke and UNC fans were treated to a truly unique game watching experience. Picture this: Duke player Bob Fleischer shoots a runner, but instead of following the arc of the ball through the basket, we smash cut to Fleischer high fiving a teammate on the other end of the court. A second later, Fleischer looks directly into the camera and questions what such a basket is really “worth”. Two points? Why? For what? As the second half started up, all play stopped and both coaches spent the period questioning the linear nature of sport and its bourgeois trappings while smoking a carton of cigarettes. Only after the game was it revealed that the entire game was actually Jean-Luc Godard’s new film, La Tristesse Mélancolique. While fans of French New Wave were delighted, many along Tobacco Road were left wondering how the performance would affect their team’s tournament seeding.

3. The Swimming Pool Game (Feb. 12, 1937)

During the great depression, there was only one man, Ernest “Hardwood” Botticelli, who repaired basketball courts in America, and like a cobbler of old, he would travel from town to town drumming up business. It so happened that he was in the North Carolina Triangle in February 1937, and was simultaneously repairing the courts at both UNC and Duke—at the time, the only basketball facilities in the state. That forced the teams to get creative when the date of the big game came around, and it was Pokey Krzyzewksi (Coach K’s grandfather, a civic leader) who came up with the winning idea: Why not play the game in the old Chapel Hill municipal swimming pool, which had been drained during a Typhoid fever scare the year before? Volunteers attached peach baskets to either side of the pool, the players were lowered into the concrete structure, and the fans watched from above, shouting their support. In an era when teams didn’t change sides at halftime, the Blue Devils had a tremendous advantage, as their basket was in the shallow end of the pool, and they won the game 74-34. Within weeks, 13 of the participating players had come down with Typhoid fever, traces of which had lingered in the crevices of the concrete.

2. The Four Corners Defense (Feb. 2, 1978)

In 1978, Duke coach, Ira “the Innovator” Marfin had nothing more than a nickname he gave himself and a radical plan when his team hit the court against the Tar Heels. Long a student of basketball, Marfin took note of the “Four Corners Offense” many teams had started using to stall the game and create an advantage on the offensive end. Desperate to come up with an answer for the strategy, Coach Marfin decided to fight them on their own turf. Prior to the game, he told four of his players to stand at the four corners of the defensive end before the UNC offense had a chance to arrive. He felt this would deprive the Tar Heel offense of their precious corners, and give his team their only chance to win. It was an immediate success: A baffled Dean Smith refused to concede his spacing to Duke, and a war of attrition took place at the corners, with players trying to box each other out. Meanwhile, the basket went unnoticed, and Duke prevailed 6-0. The next time the two teams played, UNC guard Franklin “Smarty” Jones wondered aloud why they didn’t just ignore the corners and drive to the basket, at which point an enraged Smith kicked him off the team. Jones became a horse trainer, and won the Kentucky Derby in 2001 with a thoroughbred he named after himself.

1. The Last Game Ever (March 13, 2011)

On Mar. 13, in the finals of the ACC Tournament, Duke beat North Carolina 75-58. The following December, the machines of our planet became sentient in an event known as “The Singularity.” In accordance with Mayan predictions, they waged war on mankind beginning on Dec. 21, and it wasn’t much of a battle—those who weren’t killed were enslaved, and put into a coma-like state where the fantasy of real life was maintained via a series of sedatives and hallucinogens to forestall any thought of revolt. In our minds, the usual reality persisted, but it was an illusion—all Duke-UNC battles since, including the infamous Austin Rivers game and the Jantober Oil Game, were figments of our collective imagination, and didn’t actually happen. (NOTE: There is some debate among historians as to whether our previous reality was truly “real,” in the strictest sense, or whether that, too, was a delusion from an enslaved labor class. If that’s the case, the last Duke-UNC game took place on Feb. 24, 1989, when Dean Smith and Mike Kryzyewski kissed at center court.) (NOTE: The historians themselves, however, were not real, nor was the debate, nor is anything you’re reading right now.)

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The Villain: Patrick Reed

(Hello—a quick note up top to explain the presence of this story on Tobacco Road Blues, of all places. I’ve been working on a golf book for the past year and a half—Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour is scheduled to hit stores this May, and can be pre-ordered now—and after finishing the first draft of the manuscript in December, I became acquainted with a strange phenomenon: When you finish a book, you have to wait months before it’s published. Which is fine, unless you’ve done any investigative reporting, in which case you have to sit on your hands anxiously and pray that nobody re-creates your legwork and publishes the results in a more flexible medium before the book hits. In the case of my work on Patrick Reed, those prayers went unanswered, which is no surprise, given his notoriety and his success. As it happens, a big story on Reed is coming out in a major outlet soon, and since it proved impossible to publish anywhere else on such short notice, I’m showcasing it here before that story hits. This is not an official book excerpt. Instead, think of it as a sample of my work from the past year—a few vignettes on a common theme. It’s a long read, but it might be interesting. —Shane Ryan)

 

THE VILLAIN

Q: Do you think the media’s making you out to be a villain?

A: Yeah. For sure.

—Reed

Patrick Reed: Twenty-four years old, built like Babe Ruth—short, heavy, barrel-chested, with a build that makes you think “stocky” and “powerful” rather than “fat”—quick to anger even by pro golf standards, and a born winner.

Those are the descriptions that come to mind when you study Reed’s résumé and watch him on the course. With his win earlier this month at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he became just the fourth player in the last two decades to win four times on the PGA Tour before his 25th birthday. The other three are Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Sergio Garcia—names that demonstrate the lofty company he keeps.

With Reed, though, success is never simple. There has always been something a little off-key brewing beneath the surface of his story—a swirl of rumors dating back to his college days, when he lasted a year at Georgia before transferring to Augusta State and winning two national championships, the second of them against the school that had kicked him out. There’s much to be said about his professional life, and that story is ongoing. This is a story about his past—the triumphs and the stumbles.

*

The more Reed won on Tour, the more inevitable it became that his complicated history would return to haunt him. Finally, after the biggest win of his career at the Cadillac Championship last March, ESPN’s Ian O’Connor dragged some of the skeletons from the closet in a Masters-week story called “Patrick Reed’s Turbulent Rise.” O’Connor’s research, spanning courthouses and coaches and parents and former college and high school teammates, lifted the veil, at least slightly, on Reed’s youth. The story made it clear that his peers had never really liked him, especially at the college level. A new picture of Reed emerged: Brash, arrogant, abrasive, unapologetic, winner. He turned potential friends against him, and he never seemed to care about the consequences—at least not enough to change.

In terms of the nitty-gritty details, though, O’Connor couldn’t quite pierce the wall of silence put up by the very same people who despised Reed. A citation in an Athens courthouse revealed that Reed had been arrested for intoxication his freshman season, but if that was the standard for a villain, half of the country would be doomed (as O’Connor admitted). The reason why Georgia coach Chris Haack had kicked Reed off the team remained a mystery, as did the ensuing troubles at Augusta State, which head coach Josh Gregory and Reed’s former teammates kept close to the vest.

“It’s certainly no secret to us, but I’m not going to be the first one to blab about it,” Georgia alum Brian Harman told me, summing up the prevailing philosophy among nearly everyone inside the loop.

Whatever the reason for the silence, it was clear that the ESPN story had only struck a glancing blow—the truth went far deeper than a mere drunken night, and the real story was left unresolved. As another media member put it to me, “that was as close as anyone ever got, and they didn’t get that close.”

*

From the start of my travels in a year on Tour, I found Reed to be one of the most compelling young golfers around, and I began trying to arrange an interview with him as early as January. He proved an elusive figure, even with a cooperative agent, but I finally sat down with him and Justine—his wife and former caddie, who had just given birth to their first child—at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia in early July. I held off on his college years as long as I could, but eventually I broached the topic, which led to an awkward exchange:

Me: Did you read Ian O’Connor’s article?

Patrick: No.

Me: I mean, a lot of people want to know-

Patrick: I talked to him about it.

Me: You did talk to him?

Patrick: I think so, yeah.

Justine: Yeah, I read it.

Patrick: Yeah. Yeah no, it was at…

Justine: You read it.

Patrick: We were at Augusta, huh? He talked to me before he wrote it.

Me: But you didn’t read it?

Justine: I think he read it.

Patrick: I think so, I don’t know. There’s so many articles…it’s so hard…

Justine: There’s so many stories. But I do recall that story.

From Reed’s body language after I said O’Connor’s name, I got the sense that he knew exactly what I was talking about. I believe that he lied, and I don’t say that with any judgment—I learned early on that lying is a critical part of the process with PGA Tour players and their representatives, and it serves a purpose. It’s not incumbent upon them to provide unfavorable information about themselves, either from their past or their Tour lives, and in fact being honest can, at times, have a detrimental effect. There was no reason for Reed to do my work for me.

But I was curious to see his reaction to the story, and the fact that he had feigned ignorance until his wife essentially called him out was telling—it had hit home, and it was something he worried about. Before moving on, I brought up the idea that when you really looked at the story, there was nothing too damning beyond the kind of alcohol infraction experienced by hordes of college students every year—including myself.

Me: But see, the interesting thing for me was…I mean, I’m someone who got arrested in college for shooting off a fire extinguisher. It feels like everyone I know does, so it felt like whatever he wrote wasn’t everything. It was like, ‘oh, that’s it?”

Justine: It was everything.

Patrick: No, the article he wrote was everything. I mean, it’s…

Justine: There’s nothing else out there.

Those responses came quickly, and reminded me of an old trope: The cop standing in front of a grisly car wreck, saying, “move along, nothing to see here!” Again, they said what they had to say. And again, they were lying.

*

From the time he was very young, Reed brought an unusual focus to the sport, right down to the smallest details. When he was ten, he stopped wearing shorts on the golf course, both in competitive tournaments and range rounds, because he saw that the pros had to wear pants. In the brutal heat of midsummer, he’d be the only kid at a tournament in khakis, and even when he came close to passing out, he’d never succumb.

Two of Patrick’s dominant personality traits emerged early, and both worried his parents, Bill and Jeannette. The first was his incredible capacity for rage. He expected so much of himself that when he went into a slump, he’d transform into a sullen powder keg of frustration and anger, to the point that his parents wondered whether or not he was truly enjoying the sport. Reed always told them he was, but his emotional explosions painted a different picture.

The other problem was his outward shows of confidence, which crossed over into a cocky, arrogant tone too often for Bill’s liking. He knew his son’s success somewhat depended on this self-assurance, but when Patrick introduced himself to strangers by saying things like, “I’m Patrick Reed, and I’ll kick the shit out of you at golf any time you want,” Bill also knew he had a problem. The issue was that Patrick’s obsession was all-consuming—he had no other interests, and though it made him one of the best juniors in the country, it also meant that his self-worth was entirely wrapped up in the game. Combined with a natural arrogance and a snarly demeanor, he had a knack for bad first impressions.

But what was the solution? The difficulty, according to his parents, was that while they tried to keep him humble, everyone around them was telling Patrick how great he was. They were right, too—he was a natural—but the constant praise made it difficult to regulate his behavior outside the home. Still, their fears that he would burn out never came to pass, and they watched as other top-ranked junior golfers dropped out or peaked too early while Patrick surpassed them all.

Success followed success, and after a chance visit to Athens, GA on the way home from a summer tournament, Reed reversed a prior commitment to Texas and pledged his college years to Georgia. He won the Louisiana state championship as a junior, and because he already had enough credits to play Division-1 golf, Georgia coach Chris Haack encouraged him to come to school a year early. The class above Reed was full of unknown quantities, and Haack thought he might need Patrick sooner than expected.

As it turned out, those unknown quantities were Russell Henley, Harris English, and Hudson Swafford, all of whom panned out in a big way. It was too late for Reed to reverse course, though, and when he finally came to Georgia, he found himself as a cog in a stacked roster that included the three super sophomores and senior star Brian Harman.

Haack had a rule that any player who made the semifinals of the U.S. amateur in the summer wouldn’t have to qualify for the first college tournament in the fall, and when Reed advanced to the final weekend, losing to Danny Lee in the semis, he was exempt for the start of his college career. This, along with his penchant for boasting, somewhat isolated the 17-year-old Reed when he arrived on campus. It didn’t help that whenever he qualified for a tournament, he was knocking out a veteran, and Reed wasn’t the kind of kid who was equipped to handle the delicate situation with the requisite tact. If anything, it was reminiscent of another Georgia player who ran afoul of his teammates and coach in a year with an unusual amount of talent. Like Bubba Watson, Reed quickly drifted outside the Bulldogs’ tight inner circle.

When he explained to me what went wrong in his freshman season, Reed chalked it up to being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people in such a small area, leading him to seek out a more comfortable environment.

The truth isn’t quite so simple. The full story, from sources who prefer to remain anonymous, shines a light on a golfer who veered completely out of control in his one year at Georgia. Everything O’Connor said about his personality quirks was true—he alienated his teammates immediately with displays of arrogance, and he had an unapologetic way of practicing and playing apart from the team. If that were the only issue, though, he might have merely remained an irksome presence. It wasn’t, he didn’t, and the situation grew much worse.

During a qualifying round prior to a tournament, according to sources, Reed hit a ball far into the rough. When he approached the spot, he found another ball sitting closer to the fairway, and was preparing to hit it when several of his teammates confronted him. Reed pled ignorance, but the other Georgia players were convinced he had been caught red-handed trying to cheat. That same fall, several items went missing from the Georgia locker room, including a watch, a Scotty Cameron putter, and $400 cash. When Reed showed up the next day with a large wad of cash, sources say a teammate confronted him and asked how he’d come by the money. Reed said he’d played golf with a professor at the school and hustled him out of the cash. The player in question took this claim to the professor, who had no idea what he was talking about—it had been weeks since the man had played with Reed.

Again, no action was taken, but as far as his teammates were concerned, Reed was guilty of cheating and thieving. Even now, on Tour, a source told me that there’s a private joke among certain players when Reed enters a locker room: “Hide your things,” they tell each other. “Patrick’s here.”

In addition, the arrest for intoxication—when Reed was found drunk at 2:30 a.m. on campus—was only the first of two alcohol violations. The second came hot on the heels of the first, during the week of a Georgia football game. That day, Reed and a friend had loaded up on alcohol before leaving for the game. (To Bill and Jeannette, the drinking was a new side of Reed—he had never had much of a social life at all in high school, and though he had the odd girlfriend here and there, drinking was never part of his agenda. Their theory today is that Patrick was trying to fit in on a college campus where he felt desperately alone.) Later that night, near Atlanta, he was arrested again on a second alcohol charge.

This time, the Reeds hired a lawyer, and were able to keep word from reaching the team after a judge threw out the case. By February, though, Chris Haack found out, and he scheduled a meeting with Patrick. According to the sources, Reed came in for the meeting with his mother Jeannette, who was visiting. When Haack brought up the second arrest, Jeannette reacted with surprise:

“We thought no one knew,” she said.

At that point, sources say, Haack realized there had been a cover-up, and he couldn’t trust anything that came from Reed or anybody else in the family. Combined with the personal and ethical problems Patrick presented, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Haack began the process of severing ties between Reed and the golf team. Reed kept his access to all facilities for the rest of the academic year, along with academic tutoring, but in terms of Georgia golf, the relationship was over. It was understood that Reed would transfer for his sophomore season.

*

The choice came down to Florida, Wake Forest and Augusta State, and considering that his parents now lived in Augusta, he didn’t brood over the decision for long. Head coach Josh Gregory sold him on the idea that he’d already tried the big schools, and it was time to see how he’d function in a smaller environment. Reed could see the wisdom in that, so he chose to spend the next two years at Augusta State, living at home the second year.

Gregory’s program was an interesting anomaly in the sport—golf was the school’s only Division 1 program, and the college itself had none of the allure of the surrounding SEC and ACC schools, with their huge student populations, top level football programs, sprawling campuses, and the student-centric milieu that included vibrant small cities, Greek life, and—since we’re talking about teenage males—beautiful young women everywhere. When Reed was in high school, Gregory didn’t even bother recruiting him; as he told me, “Augusta State doesn’t get the Patrick Reeds of the world.”

Recruiting against schools like Georgia and Georgia Tech was a pipe dream—no student would visit both places and come away with an urgent desire to make Augusta his college home. Instead, Gregory would look for mid-level talents in the southeast that had some of the competitive drive he coveted—guys he could mold into great players. He also recruited internationally, where the reputation of his competitors didn’t carry quite as much weight. And, when fate dealt him a lucky hand, he’d take the odd cast-off; the stud like Reed who, for whatever reason, couldn’t cut it at his original school.

Gregory had been a lifelong underdog himself, a college golfer under Hank Haney at SMU who never won a tournament, and he knew almost from the minute he turned pro that he lacked the mental game to succeed. When he looked around at his friends who were succeeding at the highest levels, he saw players who believed they were twice as good as they actually were. Gregory was the opposite—he never thought he was half as good as he really was—and the sport made him miserable. But the analytical brain that spoiled his playing career made him an ideal coach. He knew exactly who to look for, and he became an expert not only at finding diamonds in the rough, but training them to take down the high-profile players in whose shadow they had spent their entire lives.

Reed, though, represented a new challenge entirely. Gregory understood that he needed a player of Reed’s caliber to put a very good Augusta State team over the top, and he also knew that Reed wasn’t squeaky-clean. But he had no idea how bad things would get, and how fast. Once again, Reed made a terrible first impression, angering his teammates and making life difficult for his coach. He talked too much about himself, refused to listen to advice, and came off as someone with deep insecurities who was trying to project an infallible image.

(Gregory laughed at the fact that despite all the troubles, if you put Reed in a room full of adults, he’d be totally at ease and totally charming. I found the same to be true—the angry tyrant I had watched on the course was never in evidence in a one-on-one setting. I enjoyed my time in West Virginia with him and Justine more than most of my interviews with Tour players, and despite the moments when his account departed from the truth, I thought of him as a good storyteller with more personal charisma than I’d expected.)

When I asked Gregory what form Reed’s behavior took, he described a player who was so intent on proving that he was the best golfer—motivated by an intense fear of failure—that he couldn’t turn it off and have normal social interactions with his teammates. Even though adults liked him, he had a one-track mind around people his own age, and his relationships with golfers became antagonistic and tense. He would openly tell his teammates that he was better than they were, that he was going to beat them, and etc. They didn’t enjoy having him around, and Reed could sense—and was hurt by—their dislike, which only exacerbated his need to prove his value on the golf course, and to identify completely with the idea of Patrick Reed the golfer. The self-defeating cycle perpetuated itself, driving an enormous wedge between Reed and the rest of the team.

On one memorable night—one of the few times he hung out with his teammates in a social setting—sources say he became so belligerent at one of his teammates that he earned a punch in the face. He also got suspended for the start of the season for reasons that remained shrouded in mystery for the longest time, kept secret by golf’s omerta.

The news trickled around the Georgia golf community, though, and the cause of the suspension—confirmed by multiple sources—didn’t surprise the teammates who knew him back in Athens: Cheating in a qualifying event.

*

The suspension cost him the first two tournaments of the season, and Gregory told him that unless he grew up, and grew up quickly, he’d never make it either in college or on the PGA Tour. Gregory also placed a phone call to Haack, angry at just how difficult his player had proven to be, and Reed’s teammates held several meetings that year deciding what to do about the black sheep. In addition, a source close to the scene told me that Reed would often have tense phone conversations with his father after events he didn’t win, and that these would often become accusatory and angry, devolving into intense shouting matches before Reed hung up. The exact nature of the relationship wasn’t well known, but the sense among the team was that Bill was unreasonably tough on his son.

It’s tempting now to paint a story of redemption—a path upward from the darkest hours. With Reed, though, there was never a seismic personality shift in college. In 2011, he stopped hanging out with his teammates off the golf course completely. He also stopped cheating, and he was slightly more cordial with his teammates, but when I asked multiple sources whether this meant they actually liked him, the response was unanimous: Hell no.

*

In fact, something odd began to take shape with those Augusta State teams. Where most coaches preach team chemistry, what developed between Reed and his teammates was the opposite. They so despised each other that the environment became abnormally competitive—particularly between Reed and Henrik Norlander, two alpha dogs who wanted to beat each other so badly that they played with a desperate intensity even in practice rounds. It’s not the textbook way to build a team, much less one that any coach would recommend, but for Augusta State, it created a hard edge among the players that served them well in NCAA match play. The idea of being intimidated by some unknown opponent was laughable—they had to deal with Patrick Reed every day.

Everyone I spoke with agreed on one thing—if it wasn’t for Josh Gregory’s guidance and belief in Reed, he would have gone off the rails and been out of NCAA golf within a matter of months. The fact that he showed any improvement, or at least kept himself out of trouble, was due entirely to the standard Gregory set, and the artful way he dealt with a player who didn’t respond well to authority.

Still, his teammates’ attitude never changed. Before the last round of his college career, in the national championship against Harris English, a group of Reed’s Augusta State teammates approached English—one of the most well-liked, easygoing players in the sport—with an emphatic message:

“We want to win the national title, but we hope you kick the shit out of Patrick Reed.”

*

The trouble for them was that nobody kicked the shit out of Patrick Reed, especially in match play. In a one-on-one situation, he could escape his head completely and focus on beating a single opponent. During his sophomore season, after riding out the suspension, Reed proved that he was a valuable addition to the team, quickly forming a strong 1-2 attack with Norlander.

In June, at the NCAA Championships at the Honors Course in Ooltewah, TN, the Jaguars shot well enough to secure the sixth position after the three stroke play rounds ended. A year earlier, the championship format had changed; where it used to be purely a stroke play event, now the top eight teams after the medal rounds would face off in a match play bracket. That meant Augusta State, the 6-seed, would face Georgia Tech, the 3-seed, with five players from each team squaring off against each other in a best-of-five contest.

Reed drew Chesson Hadley that day, the Yellow Jacket who would go on to become PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2014. Neither player ever established more than a one hole lead, but coming down the 18th hole, Reed, who had proven his match play chops at the U.S. amateur the summer before he came to Georgia, was 1-up. They needed his win, as Tech led 2-1 in matches completed. Hadley’s approach was mediocre, landing more than 30 feet from the pin, and Reed, sensing blood, put his 12 feet away. Barring a miracle, a two-putt would win. Incredibly, though, Hadley holed his long birdie attempt. The pressure was squarely on Reed, and he responded, sinking his own birdie and letting out a primal shout when it fell.

Henrik Norlander won the deciding match on the 18th hole, and Augusta State pulled off the upset to advance to the semifinals. There, they handled the Florida State Seminoles, with Reed winning again, and it was on to the championship, where they’d face their stiffest challenge yet in top-ranked Oklahoma State. The Cowboys featured future pros like Morgan Hoffmann, Kevin Tway, and Peter Uihlein—son of Wally Uihlein, CEO of the Acushnet Company and the man who runs Footjoy and Titleist, which makes him one of the most powerful people in golf.

Uihlein is as close as anyone comes to golf royalty, and Reed, with his combative nature and the giant chip on his shoulder, seemed to take a special pleasure in playing against him. They were drawn against one another, and after Uihlein took the first hole, Reed won the next three. That led to the seventh hole, where Uihlein conceded a short par putt to Reed, and Reed refused to return the favor when Uihlein’s birdie attempt rolled up next to the hole. Uihlein, annoyed, stood over his putt and missed. The annoyance turned to rage as he swatted the ball into the nearby water, and Reed, now 4-up, knew he’d won the mental game. He coasted from there, and the match ended 4&2 in Reed’s favor. Henrik Norlander and Mitch Krywulycz came through in their matches, and Augusta State’s motley crew of underdogs had its first national title.

Afterward, Reed approached Gregory with tears in his eyes and thanked him for sticking by his side. He knew how close he’d been to losing his second team in two years, and how it would have made him poison to every other college program. He had nearly sabotaged himself out of both a national title and the stable foundation he desperately needed before launching his professional career, and only Gregory’s forbearance had saved him.

*

The 2011 national championship was held in Karsten Creek, Oklahoma State’s home course, and when the hosts won their quarterfinal match and Augusta State—now the 7-seed—topped Georgia Tech for the second straight year, a revenge narrative took shape. The bitter Oklahoma State players had made comments the year before to the effect that the best team had lost, and they were eager for another crack at the upstarts who had left a sour taste in their mouths.

Thousands of Oklahoma State fans lined the course for the semifinal, and the way they’d erupt when one of their players hit an approach to 30 feet, yet stay completely silent if an Augusta State player stuck one inside five feet, reminded Josh Gregory of the Ryder Cup. The coach walked with Henrik Norlander during his match against Kevin Tway, and they were on their way to the 13th tee when he decided to stir the pot.

“Tough crowd out here today,” he said loudly, giving Norlander a fist bump.

“Shut up, asshole,” came the response from a voice in the crowd.

Gregory loved it, and the atmosphere was right up Reed’s alley as well. He was set to go last in the running order, and he knew the match could come down to him, which was just fine—he wanted the pressure on his shoulders, and hadn’t enjoyed a year earlier when he finished his match in the championship round too quickly, and had to watch his teammates fight to the end. When the draw came out, and he saw that he’d be facing Peter Uihlein for the second straight year, he thought, “even better.”

(After telling me how happy he was when he realized who his opponent would be, Reed was quick to add that Uihlein was his “good friend”— a typical verbal maneuver for Reed, and one which I might even have believed if he didn’t keep using it in reference to certain golfers, like Harris English, who I knew definitively were not his friend.

Later in the year, when I told Henrik Stenson that Reed had included him in the “good friends” list, he laughed, and responded with his unique brand of dry, Swedish humor.

“I wouldn’t say that we go way back,” he deadpanned. “I played one practice round with him at Wells Fargo a couple years ago. And…well, it’s nice if he thinks that everyone he knows a little bit is one of his friends. That’s obviously a way to look at it. But if I’m going to express myself politically, I guess he’s an interesting character.”

Later, when I asked why he kept to himself on the range, I got a truer version from Justine: “Really, he has few good friends out here, but he’s not worried about being the most popular guy.” I looked to Reed, who nodded. “She basically nailed it.”)

Uihlein was now the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, and had played in the Masters in April—a rare honor for a college student—but the accolades only seemed to stoke the flames of Reed’s competitive fire. Uihlein, from the start, never had a chance.

Reed birdied six of the first 11 holes, and as he walked up the 10th, Uihlein looked at him something like disbelief. “Every time I play you, it’s like I run into a buzzsaw,” he said. “You just cut me down.” Reed won the match by the gaudy score of 8&7—he had faced the top amateur in the world, and the player the Wall Street Journal had called “the next great champion” just two months earlier, and humiliated him on his home course.

Norlander won again, and in a dramatic match that went extra holes, Carter Newman—a senior, and the team’s fifth-best player—saved himself from disaster by holing lengthy putts on 17 and 18 before beating Sean Einhaus in extra holes and sending Augusta State to the championship round for the second straight year.

Waiting for them, on the other side of the bracket, were the Georgia Bulldogs.

*

Gregory worried that Reed would be too amped up for his match, considering the circumstances, and he tried to emphasize that focusing on the opponent wouldn’t help. It had limited effect—Reed wanted the win worse than he ever had before, and nothing Gregory could say would calm him down.

Reed’s teammates delivered their message of support to Harris English, and the match was on. This time, Reed fished his wish—Russell Henley beat Norlander, Hudson Swafford lost, and the teams split the other two matches, leaving Reed and English as the last men on the course. Their point would decide the national championship.

“If you were to go back in history and ask Harris if there’s one match that he wanted to win,” Chris Haack told me later, “that was the match. Not only did it mean winning the national championship, which was ultimately what we all wanted, but just a lot of the…oh, gosh, I don’t know, the way that things always transpired with Patrick…it just wasn’t a very…”

Here he trailed off, before concluding, “I want to take the high road here.”

Reed held a 1-up lead early, and though English squared the match before the turn, Reed won the 10th and 13th holes to go 2-up. He held the same lead heading into the 17th, and needed only a half to win the match. Neither player hit a great drive, but when English hit his approach into the water, the match was down to its dying embers. Reed made a mess of the hole, but still left himself with two putts from six feet to win. His first crawled up to bare inches away, the second was conceded, and just like that, Reed had finished off the greatest underdog act in college golf history. Josh Gregory and Augusta State had won back-to-back national championships, and they did it in style, beating two of the sport’s biggest juggernauts.

For Reed, it was the end of a short but brilliant career, and the cherry on top of a 6-0 match play record at the NCAA championships. He kept his emotions in check—deep down, he knew Haack wasn’t wrong to let him go, and as badly as he wanted to win, there was a bittersweet feeling knowing his college career was over.

To the Georgia players and coaches, though—and even to some of Reed’s teammates—the win represented the opposite of a fairy-tale ending. Reed and English had deserved different fates in their final match, they thought, and everything about it felt deeply unfair. One of O’Connor’s sources, in the ESPN story, called it “the death of karma.”

*

“I’m hoping one day he’ll come out and have the honesty to talk about his past. It would really be a great cleansing process for him, but I don’t know if he’ll ever do that. I wish he would, because unfortunately he’s going to get always get questions about his past. Always questions about what happened at Georgia, what happened at Augusta State, what happened with his parents. I wish he would get it off his chest at some point in life, because I think it would help him become a better person.”

—Josh Gregory

It’s hard to know whether a troubled athlete ever truly changes, and the ubiquity of high-paid experts dedicated to crafting their player’s image casts a cynical light on the concept of personal growth. Which changes are sincere, goes the unanswerable question, and which are mere PR window-dressing and stagecraft, designed to lure a gullible writer?

Even if he never changes, reasonable people can still see shades of gray, and forgiveness isn’t out of the question.

“He has a big heart,” said Bill Reed. “It’s hard for him to show it in certain circumstances, because he needs to be on guard. He’s so driven, and to him he thinks it’s a sign of weakness. And you have to understand too, he’s still only 24 years old, and he’s been in the adult world a lot sooner than children his age should be and need to be.”

Brian Harman put it more bluntly.

“You have to remember that he was 17 years old,” he said, of Reed’s freshman year at Georgia. “We all do a lot of stupid shit when we’re 17.”

Reed’s story since his last college match has been one of success—he got his first PGA Tour win by out-dueling Jordan Spieth at the Wyndham Championship in 2013, and then won twice more in 2014, prompting the infamous “top-5” comment that brought him his first real dose of public notoriety.

His temperament, on the other hand, hadn’t really evolved. Throughout the 2014 season, I watched Reed blow off reporters in anger after his bad rounds, including at the Congressional in June, where after doing his requisite two questions with tv—nobody says no to tv—he wouldn’t offer more than a terse “nope” when a Tour official asked him to meet with the writers. Later, though, starting at the British Open, he began to face the music. He obviously still hated the process, but he’d endure a question or two without storming off, like the rest of his fellow pros.

Did this represent real maturity? It’s always hard to know for certain, and as Reed himself told me in our interview, the media will never get to know the “real” him. He also believes the broader forces are trying to make him a villain, so the relationship is tainted from the beginning—both sides are mostly fine with assuming the worst about the other.

In any case, it’s safe to assume that Reed’s anger runs a few degrees hotter than the average golfer—in Shanghai, at the WGC event in November, he was caught on camera chastising himself with the kind of language that goes beyond the usual self-loathing. “Nice fucking three-putt, you fucking faggot,” he said. “Go fucking hang yourself.” (In a bizarre postscript to the fallout, he decided to seek “guidance” from Bubba Watson, of all people.)

Reed also became estranged from his family after graduating from Augusta State and leaving home in November 2011—an estrangement that has lasted to the present. Neither his mother or father were invited to his wedding in December 2012, and contextual clues indicate that the relationship worsened from there.

When the Augusta Chronicle, ignorant of the longstanding rift, ran a tame video interview with Bill, Jeannette, and Patrick’s younger sister Hannah after his win at the Wyndham Championship, sources told me that the Legacy Agency, which represented Reed at the time, requested that the video be taken down. The matter died when the Chronicle refused to capitulate, but the gesture shows how strained the relationship must be. In 2014, at several tournaments, independent sources told me that Justine hired at least one bodyguard to “protect” her from Bill and Jeannette.

For their part, the Reeds didn’t want to speak on the record about the divide—“As a parent, no matter how much pain you’re going through, our philosophy on it is we’re never going to throw one of our own children under the bus,” Bill said. “No matter how much our children hurt us, I’m not going to hang them out to dry in a national setting.”—but Bill is on Twitter, with a profile picture showing him and Patrick at a golf tournament, and a tweet from Dec. 2012 seems to make a pointed statement about his relationship with his son:

“You can love someone with all your heart but there is no promise they are going to love you back. The ladies in my life are best!”

(Note: After this piece was published, a national golf writer pointed out to me that the preceding tweet was written on Reed’s wedding day.)

His mother Jeannette also has a social media presence, and her Twitter feed is dense with vague messages that hint at a relationship gone sour, and alternate between bitterness, sadness, and the hope of reconciliation. The latest instance came in December, when she wrote, “One would imagine the pure joy of Christmas past would touch a person’s heart in some way #miracle #hope.”

“If a person does not know where they started from, they sure as heck do not know where they are going….,” she tweeted on April 30, not long after the 2014 Masters, and the oblique references go back to the start of her timeline in 2013, with messages like, “Sometimes you have to move on without certain people. If they are meant to be, they will catch up…..”

One message in particular seems to be a reference to Justine: “There are doers, givers & takers in the world. You do & give it your all out of love & support, the takers step in & take what is not theirs.”

The vagueness of the tweets clarified this month, when Bill Reed became angry that his son hadn’t been in touch for their daughter Hannah’s birthday.

“Very sad and heart breaking at #PatrickReed did not wish his little sister happy birthday God has a plan wish we could see it,” he wrote, and both Jeannette and Hannah responded in kind.

The family relations, though, are too complex to be untangled from a few words on social media. For now, it’s enough to say that Patrick Reed is fighting a battle on two fronts. On the golf course, he’s winning in style, and may be the toughest young American in a generation loaded with talent. Off the course, he’s been painted into a corner by a complicated past and the questionable choices of the present.

In a culture that loathes gray area, Reed has been typecast before his 25th birthday. He is golf’s remorseless villain, and stands as a rare exception to the old proverb—not everybody, it seems, loves a winner.

 ***

 

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