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5 takeaways from the USA's thrilling Ryder Cup win

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If Patrick Reed is not on the field for every single Ryder Cup going forward, then the U.S. had better convene another task force to determine why. Reed may have ticked off his share of golfers and other folks in college and during the early years of his career. But the passionate, 26-year-old Texan certainly won a truckload of enthusiasts with his fiery temperament two years ago at Gleneagles. He brought it stateside for the home fans last week at Hazeltine, where he was instrumental in returning the Cup to the U.S. for the first time since 2008.

Reed v. McIlroy lives up to the hype

How many times have golf fans anticipated the match of the century when two heavyweights go toe-to-toe in a major or even a regular-season tournament (see: Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy, Rory-Jordan Spieth, etc.)? Well, the McIlroy-Reed pairing in Sunday’s singles finale had everything all those others lacked: thrills, tension, finger-wagging, hollering, fist-pumping, and electrifying golf.

The stalwarts of their respective teams took it to the 18th hole of their singles contest, slugging it out from the outset and going par for par and birdie for birdie until McIlroy’s flat stick failed him down the stretch.

Before Reed prevailed 1-up by burying a 7-footer for birdie on the 18th, the two engaged in an epic battle for bragging rights marked by the theatrics on the eighth hole. McIlroy drained a 60-foot birdie putt and then cupped his ear, yelling, "I can’t hear you!" at the boisterous partisans in the grandstand. Reed then poured his 20-footer in and wagged his finger at his opponent before the two bumped fists and walked off the green slapping each other’s shoulders.

"I knew today was going to be tough going against a guy like Rory, especially with how he was playing earlier this week," Reed said. "To come out and play as well as we did, especially on that front nine, it was definitely something fun to be a part of and pretty sure fun to watch."

For us, too, Patrick.

Don’t poke the Big Cat

The Tiger Woods aura, which dissipated at the 2009 PGA Championship, may be making a comeback. Legend has it, that BYEY (Before Y.E. Yang), all Woods had to do was roll his cap onto the first tee and his opponents were toast.

Well, should Tiger resurrect his injury-plagued career starting next week at Silverado and go on a winning streak, his victims may want to point fingers at Lee Westwood. How did Woods respond, after veteran Euro Ryder Cupper suggested that Tiger might have an "adverse effect" in the Americans’ team room? Just went out and vice captained his ass off, mentoring Reed to a 3-1-1 record at Hazeltine.

When Reed was the only guy in Woods’ pod who wanted to play an additional nine practice holes last week, Tiger walked with him, studied how he went about his business, and tutored him on how to play the very course on which he blew that 54-hole PGA lead in ‘09 — like how greens slope and where to miss approach shots.

"So, he throws the balls over there and says, ‘This is where you need to be chipping,' and that kind of stuff," Reed said. "It's impressive the way his mind works on the course. It shows why he has won so much. It was amazing.

"I learned so much, I felt like that nine-hole walk alone could save me so many shots throughout my career just by thinking about the little details," Reed added. "It’s not rocket science. It's stuff that I should have been thinking about. The experience and expertise he shared with me this week has been awesome."

As for Westwood, the 43-year-old Brit missed a couple of short putts down the stretch of Saturday’s fourball match that cost his squad a half-point. In the end, that half would not have changed the outcome, but even after all this time, it might have behooved Westwood not to go all Stephen Ames on Tiger Woods.

How ‘bout Phil Mickelson and that task force?!

Turns out the much-ballyhooed and -maligned task force created in the wake of the Americans’ third loss in a row two years ago at Gleneagles actually worked. The panel, now a committee, convened after Phil Mickelson criticized captain Tom Watson’s approach.

"When players are put in a position to succeed, more often than not, they tend to succeed, and when they are put in positions to fail, most of the time they tend to fail," Mickelson said. "This is a year where we feel as though captain Love has been putting us in a position to succeed."

But make no mistake, this was Phil’s baby. He set himself up for either a monumental failure or the spectacular triumph of the 17-11 victory the Americans pulled off as a team on Sunday.

"The pressure to win this Ryder Cup started two years ago when some dumbass opened his mouth in the media center," Mickelson said, who compiled a 2-1-1 record in his 11th Ryder Cup start.

The pressure off, Mickelson was so jubilant after making a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole to halve his intense singles match with Sergio Garcia, he practically jumped out of his spikes.

Teamwork

Speaking of teamwork, it’s way past time to dispel the outdated myth that the Americans are money-grubbing independent contractors indifferent to the concept of esprit de corps. How else to explain the furious fist-pumping, hollering, and high-fiving by the likes of Brandt Snedeker, or the pleading of Bubba Watson, who didn’t make the team as a player, to participate as an assistant captain?

The legendary lone cat himself was all-in as vice captain, a job that included mentoring the four guys in his pod, bringing the guys snacks, slapping five with the players who were actually swinging clubs, and being shut out of the team photo (sorry, Tiger — players only).

"We were a team," Woods said after the U.S. victory. "Whether I was playing or not I was a part of a team. My role was to help the team however possible, and I hope I've done that. ... Whether I'm playing for money or not, I take pride in the work I do out there. This is no exception. Whether there's cash involved or not, you are always playing for pride."

Willett’s brother was right

Even before Euro Ryder Cup rookie Danny Willett defended his brother’s pre-tourney anti-American rant. Pete Willett’s incendiary opinions about Ugly American behavior proved to be on the money — for a very vocal minority.

In fact, the PGA of America had to issue a warning to spectators ahead of Sunday’s finale not to act like the "pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer, pausing between mouthfuls of hot dog so they can scream ‘Baba booey’ until their jelly faces turn red" as Pete Willett, fairly accurately, described the louts who taunted and harassed the Euros all week.

"We are encouraging all spectators on Sunday to be passionate and support their team in a way that is respectful to those around them, the players, and the Ryder Cup," the PGA said in a statement after McIlroy had officials eject an especially foul-mouthed idiot. "Our security staff will continue to enforce a zero tolerance policy, removing from the course any fans who are disruptive in any way, including the use of vulgar or profane language directed at the players."

Willett, who bore the brunt of his brother’s comments, was not the only European to hear it from the Minnesota mob. Spectators loudly booed almost every shot made by the formerly beloved McIlroy, who fully embraced the villain’s role and gave it right back to what he termed the "hostile" crowd.

For sure, the majority of spectators were well-behaved and respectful as they cheered on the home team, and even shouted down the more unruly among them. And to be clear, players expect to encounter friendly, even boisterous, heckling in the emotional biennial event. It’s just unfortunate that a vociferous few half-wits took Pete Willett’s comments as a challenge rather than the somewhat accurate portrait it turned out to be.