Texas native Patrick Reed has been in Rio for fewer than two days, but his Olympic fun has already begun.
After a day of getting settled and taking pictures around the Olympic Village with wife Justine and caddy Kessler Karain, Reed said he played the front nine on Rio’s Reserva de Marapendi Olympic golf course in the city’s Barra da Tijuca neighborhood. He’ll take on 59 of the world’s top golfers, including his three American teammates, starting Thursday.
“I remember when I was little, watching the Olympics and wishing I had the chance to play for a gold medal,” Reed said during a news conference Tuesday with American teammates Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson. “It’s awesome.”
The 45-minute conference featured questions ranging from golf’s viability at the Olympics to the importance of the event to players — whose 2016 season includes the four major championships and 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine beginning Sept. 27 in addition to the Olympics. The event, returning to the Games for the first time since 1904, lost nearly 20 top players this year, the majority of whom dropped out of the tournament for fear for the widely-publicized Zika virus.
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112Years since golf was played in the Olympics. The men’s tournament begins Thursday and the women’s tournament begins Aug. 17.
Reed, who was born in San Antonio and lived in Houston growing up, said his Texas roots taught him to deal with mosquitoes. He said while he understood other golfers had their reasons for dropping out, he felt prepared to handle any mosquito-related risks.
“Mosquitoes are mosquitoes, you see them all over the world,” Reed said. “It’s one of those things, being an outdoor sport you know you have three things you have to do. You have to wear bug spray, you have to wear sunscreen and you have to hydrate. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, those are the norms for playing golf.”
Reed, who represented the United States in the 2014 Ryder Cup and 2015 Presidents Cup, said donning the Stars and Stripes for the Olympics was “just as special” as the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup or any other international competition. He said he grew up cheering for Olympians from other sports, but never thought he’d one day be able to compete for a gold medal of his own.
The Olympic golf course was built for the Rio Games at Reserva de Marapendi in Barra da Tijuca. It will be open to the public after the Summer Games.
“To be able to call ourselves Olympians, it’s almost — it’s hard to explain,” he said. “I can’t wait for my daughter to get older so I can tell her, ‘Hey, your dad has been an Olympian.’ ”
When the four American golfers were asked what Olympic sport they’d rather be playing if not golf, Reed said he always liked basketball, but wasn’t good enough to play beyond middle school. Reed, whose PGA Tour bio lists him at 6-feet and 200 pounds, joked he probably wouldn’t be qualified to run track and field, either.
Off the course, Reed said he plans to watch the swimming events Tuesday night with Kuchar, Fowler and Watson. Beyond that, he said he didn’t know what else was in store before Thursday’s opening round.
Whatever happens, Reed said he couldn’t be happier to be at the Olympics. And while the Americans aren’t playing for a collective medal, he said he feels the team spirit.
“Being my first time, it’s something I’m definitely going to soak in, and go look at every place, try to see multiple events and just live the dream.”