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A Pair Of Fourths

Two vastly different players each won their fourth PGA Tour event over the last two weeks on the PGA Tour.

At last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Maui, 24 year old Patrick Reed won the fourth title of his short career by staging a dramatic comeback to beat Jimmy Walker in a play-off.

Reed’s victory is his first since he won WGC-Cadillac Championship in March of 2014 after which he brazenly declared that he was one of the best 5 players in the world. The world would take a collective cough after that statement as Reed would only have one other top 5 finish for the rest of the year.

He would however be one of the few shining lights of the USA’s debacle at Gleneagles in September’s Ryder Cup and his win at Kapalua would be his fourth win in the last 17 months.

It’s only conceited bravado; if you can’t back it up. Reed has just backed it up.

Trailing Walker by 4 (is there a theme developing here?) with 3 holes (we have finally moved off the #4) to play, Reed holed his approach shot for an eagle-2 on the par-4 16th, and then birdied the last to tie Walker at 21-under par for the tournament and force the play-off.

And back to the four thing. By winning the Tournament of Champions, Reed became just the fourth player in the past 20 years to win his fourth event before celebrating his 25th birthday. You may know the other 3: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.

The antithesis of Reed is the 35-year old Walker who Reed beat on the first play-off hole at Kapalua. Walker seemed destined to be a lifetime journeyman player before breaking out and winning three events in a four month stretch in 2014.

Where Reed willingly acclaims his ascendancy, Walker is a man of few words who seems to prefer to let his clubs speak for him.

They have been speaking very loudly. Walker’s coach is Butch Harmon who has always insisted that Walker was one of the best players in the world, if only he himself would believe it.

Belief is always in the eyes of the beholder. After losing a four shot lead last week, it may have been easy for Walker to resign himself to that disappointment at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii and enjoy the beach with a non-committal golf game. But Walker is the defending Champion here; and that would positively not be his style. You don’t play mini Tours for 13 years wondering where your next meal is coming from to worry about “only” finishing second at the Hyundai.

After opening with a matching pair of 4-under par, 66’s at Waialae CC in Oahu, Walker then separated himself from the field with a superb 62 in the third round which featured 11 one-putt greens in a row.

This week would not mirror the last as Walker only widened his opening 2-shot final round lead with immaculate precision that ultimately gave him a 9 shot win (that’s 2×4+1). It is not in Walker’s DNA to announce himself, but sufficed to say, his performance for the last two weeks speaks volumes about a man who may be finally realizing just how very good he is. Walker may now be starting to believe that, but you will never hear him say it out loud.

Ultimately, it is only the inside that counts.

In the Fall of 2013, you would have been able to get long-odds on the proposition that the erstwhile winless-to-date Reed and Walker would be the winningest Americans over the next 17 months, each having quadrapeted (we just couldn’t say four again). But such is golf.

And such is the power of belief.