Ryder Cup week began with Patrick Reed saying in a team meeting Sunday that he was playing the maximum five matches, and he only wanted to play with Jordan Spieth. This wasn't a request, or a suggestion. This was dictated.
Fast forward to Saturday evening, and Reed cannot wipe the smile off of his face. Quite honestly, he shouldn't. He's swiveling back and forth in his chair in the press center, exhibiting the same bravado and flamboyance to a crowded room of writers that he just showed to the entire nation as he strutted down the fairways of Hazeltine with his partner, Jordan Spieth, in tow.
Nobody else played all four team sessions, as captain Davis Love III opted to rest every player for at least one match. But not Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth. By contrast, the European team had five players (Rory McIlroy, Thomas Pieters, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, and Justin Rose) play all four of the team sessions.
"He wanted to play all five matches," said Spieth, "Tiger told him he might be sitting one, and said, 'you're not sitting me in any matches.'"
Love still had to be convinced, but when Tiger Woods flexed his muscles, Reed got his wish:
Davis Love III said Tiger Woods talked him into playing Reed-Spieth this afternoon. He told him, 'Please don't take my guys out.' #RyderCup— Jeff Babineau (@GolfweekBabz) October 1, 2016
Reed and Spieth were the last pair out on Saturday morning in foursomes, and when the pairings were submitted for the afternoon session, they were cruising along 4-up through 12 holes in a match against Sergio Garcia and Rafael Cabrera Bello. But when they leaked enough oil to warrant a congressional hearing coming into the clubhouse, and ended up halving that match, it looked like this dynamic duo could be running out of steam.
Luckily for all those playing for and supporting the red, white, and blue, the pairings were already submitted with Spieth and Reed on the card, again going out last. What ensued in that afternoon session was burned into the memories of US and European Ryder Cup fans alike, and will go down in Ryder Cup lore.
In 2012 at Medinah, American fans were hogtied and forced to watch as Ian Poulter thrust dagger after dagger into the rib cages of Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner during the last match in the Saturday afternoon fourball session. Poulter's eyes bulged from his skull as he gestured towards the crowd after pouring in five straight birdies to win the match 1-up, and cut the US lead to 10-6. Poulter, whose stroke play career does not match the manner in which he carries himself, always seems to show out every two years come Ryder Cup time, and he's been integral to the recent success of the European team. Inevitably, American fans have been left wondering, "Hey, where's our Ian Poulter?"
While he had already established himself as a household name among serious golf fans, it wasn't until the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles that the world learned the name Patrick Reed. Aggressive club twirls, cocky pimp steps, and undeniable passion were the norm as he galloped his way to a 3-0-1 record. But taking on the European team was not a big enough challenge, so he provoked an opponent in the fans as well, gesturing at them after made birdies, and famously shushing them during Sunday singles after making a birdie to halve a hole.
On this Saturday afternoon at Hazeltine, Reed had his Ian Poulter moment. Just like the Englishman did in 2012, Reed was in the last Saturday match, played like a possessed maniac, and single handedly brought the crowd to thunderous reactions that reverberated all across the state of Minnesota. What was perhaps most impressive about his seven birdies and an eagle in 17 holes, was the fact that he did it with Jordan Spieth strapped to his back. His Ryder Cup partner for life struggled mightily, and hardly contributed at all to the cause outside of a birdie at the second hole. The 25 year old Reed was left to battle the Open Champion and Olympic gold medal winner on his own, and he buried them.
As loud as the fans were all day, the noise began to crescendo on the par-5 16th hole. This hole was set up by the PGA of America to be the hole at Hazeltine, and it exceeded the hype. Huge bleachers tower over the green, and a natural amphitheater fills in the remaining surrounding area, setting up tens of thousands of fans for a viewing angle to the green. This was Patrick Reed's theater, and when the curtain lifted, he gave them the show they had all been waiting for.
"16, he hit his approach shot with that 4-wood from like 269 into the breeze, with the ball below his feet off a downslope," said Spieth. "Before it reached it's apex, we were both screaming. That's how cool it was."
Reed immediately recoiled his club after impact, and started walking after it.
Recoil. pic.twitter.com/ScLye95Q5R— Adam Sarson (@Adam_Sarson) October 1, 2016
When it landed, the capacity crowd blew its top. The guy that represents the prototype of what fans have been pining for out of a Ryder Cup player was giving them a symbolic moment, and it was the moment of the 2016 Ryder Cup so far.
Reed was greeted by the adoring fans at the 16th green like a medieval hero returning from battle, and as a deafening "Patrick Reed! Patrick Reed!" chant broke out, Jordan Spieth faced the crowd and joined in, taking the clamor to seismic levels. Reed soaked in the moment, gesturing towards the crowd to keep the noise going as he strode towards his ball on the green to mark it.
Henrik Stenson responded with a chip-in eagle of his own, drawing a laugh from Reed as he fist bumped the big Swede. Reed's bid from long range to end the match did not go down. The Europeans won the hole, but it was only delaying the inevitable.
Reed was closest to the pin on the par-3 17th, and he strode towards the green with Tiger accompanying him to his right. After Rose and Stenson both failed to make birdie, Reed coaxed his downhill birdie try towards the cup, and the Europeans conceded the par putt and the match.
The American team raced in to celebrate on the green with their two stalwarts, and Tiger embraced the exuberant Reed. He stuck his neck out for him, and Reed answered the call. The pairings for Sunday singles were yet to be released, but there wasn't a soul standing on that green that didn't know who the first name on the board was going to be, and who he would be playing.
Sunday's finale will start with our new American hero up against Europe's best. It's Patrick Reed vs. Rory McIlroy.