The timing could hardly have been worse for defending Masters champion Patrick Reed.
On March 18 Reed was using the traditional teleconference with reporters to insist that his game was in better shape now than at the same time last year, a claim which was pretty debatable to begin with.
And just three days later, Reed was still out on the course during his opening round of the Valspar Championship when his wife Justine called renowned coach David Leadbetter to ask him to take a look at her husband’s malfunctioning swing.
“Justine asked me, ‘Hey, would you be prepared to just have a little look at Patrick? He’s struggling at the moment, he’s sort of lost a little bit’,” Leadbetter said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m here, sure I’ll do it. Absolutely’.”
The move did not pay immediate dividends and Reed followed an opening 77 with a 75 to miss the cut. He then failed to reach the knockout stages of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, although he did at least beat his predecessor as Masters champion, Sergio Garcia, in his final group match.
Needless to say it is hardly the sort of form which raises hopes of Reed following in the footsteps of Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in making a successful title defence at Augusta National.
Instead the 28-year-old looks more in danger of becoming the third straight defending champion, after Danny Willett and Garcia, to miss the cut and it is no wonder he is dreading the moment when he has to hand back his green jacket.
“My least favourite moment is going to be when I have to return the jacket and I’m not allowed to have it in my closet and wear it around the house and out at places,” Reed admitted.
“It’s definitely going to give me motivation to go out and try to repeat as well as try to win multiple, because even the times I’m not actually wearing the green jacket, to be able to see it sitting in your closet or in an area where you’re always walking by just gives you motivation and kind of picks me up.
“You want to keep it around as long as you can. The only way you’re going to do that is continue winning at Augusta and continue winning the event so you can have it year in and year out.”
Reed has not won since holding off final-round charges from Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth at Augusta National last year, his best finish on the PGA Tour coming with fourth place in the US Open.
A tie for second at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship saw him finish second in the Race to Dubai, but his third Ryder Cup appearance in Paris produced just one win in three matches and ended in defeat and recrimination.
Reed blamed Jordan Spieth for the end of their successful partnership and claimed it was “not smart” of captain Jim Furyk to leave him out of two sessions, further damaging a reputation already suffering from stories of family fall-outs and accusations – which Reed strongly denies – of cheating and even theft from his team-mates at the University of Georgia.
Those topics will no doubt resurface if Reed should defy the odds and find himself in contention at Augusta, but for now his focus is on trying to enjoy the experience of being the defending champion in a major.
“I’m going to go in with hopefully the same kind of mindset that I had last year and really just take it all in stride, even though there’s going to be more going on this year than there was last year,” Reed added.
“Last year I was able to kind of fly in under the radar at the beginning of the week. This year having all the extra activities, extra things going on, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“I honestly can’t wait for the week to start and to be able to experience all of it because being the first major and being able to come back and experience what it’s like to be on the first tee as defending champion is going to be an awesome experience.”