Confident Patrick Reed doesn't wilt

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DORAL, Fla. -- Patrick Reed went about his business warming up on the driving range early Sunday afternoon, the golf world's curious eyes upon him with Tiger Woods one spot over.

If the No. 1-ranked player in the world wearing his customary red shirt caused any angst for the new kid who is climbing the ranks while also wearing red attire, Reed never let on.

And he played like it.

Reed started the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship in the lead and never relinquished it, an impressive performance considering some of the names around him.

Woods fell off the pace early with back issues, with the likes of Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar all there to make life uncomfortable.

So much for that. Reed, 23, showed no such strain. To him, this is what he was supposed to do. And he went out and did it.

"I'm working my way up to being a top-five player in the world," said Reed, who started the tournament 44th and moved up to 20th in the rankings. "I haven't been out here that long."

Long enough to see what he's up against, and clearly long enough to have an air of extreme confidence, if not cockiness.

Well, he just beat the best field of the year the first time he's ever played in a World Golf Championship stroke-play event, so good for him.

When Reed started the 2013 season having just earned his PGA Tour card on the number, he was just inside the top 600 in the world. Now, having won three times in his past 14 events, look at him.

Reed is believed to be the first player to win three times on the PGA Tour before ever playing in a major championship; he'll play in his first Masters next month.

"I have a lot of confidence in my game," Reed said. "It's one of those things that you build confidence by how hard you work, and I feel like I'm one of the hardest workers out here and it definitely shows; I have three wins in 14 starts. Especially in a field like this, to go wire to wire."

Reed's rise has been quick, but he had a good bit of success as an amateur, helping Augusta State to consecutive NCAA titles during his sophomore and junior seasons.

He turned pro after that, spent time Monday qualifying at tournaments, then made his way to the PGA Tour last year. Along the way, he met his wife, Justine, who caddied for him until she became pregnant; the couple is expecting their first child in May.

Justine was on the bag for Reed's first victory at the Wyndham Championship in August, where he defeated the 2013 rookie of the year Jordan Spieth in a playoff. Now Reed -- using one of Justine's brothers, Kessler Karain, as his caddie -- has won the Humana Challenge and a WGC event in 2014.

"To do it three times and as fast as I have, it's one of those things that I can't wait to get back out and play, try to get my fourth," Reed said. "I wouldn't say I'm surprised about winning three times.

"Now if you told me two years ago do you think you're going to win three times in 14 starts and win a World Golf Championship with Tiger Woods 3 strokes back going into Sunday ... I probably would have said the odds are against me."

Reed's confident comments are sure to cause a buzz on the PGA Tour, and golf has a way of humbling even the best of players. So it will be interesting to see how the next few tournaments and the rest of the year unfold.

But there's nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself, and Reed has certainly put up the numbers in recent weeks.

"He has a lot of confidence," Watson said. "And that's really what it is. It takes a lot of confidence. You see that with a lot of guys, when you have confidence and he's backing it up with his game."

As for that Sunday attire, Reed said he's done that throughout his junior and pro career, having worn red at his previous two victories.

"The best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants, a red shirt," Reed said. "I was growing up watching him. I always thought it would be cool to wear black and red coming down on Sunday ... it's worked. Obviously there is something behind it."

Reed said he wore noise-canceling earplugs as he warmed up Sunday, so he wasn't aware of any commotion that might have ensued as Woods practiced next him. Whether or not it was a message-sending maneuver by Woods, Reed seemed to barely notice.

And as it turned out, it was the closest Woods got to Reed all day.

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