There’s something annoying about your greatest Ryder Cuppers. Seve Ballesteros could get under your skin. So could Paul Azinger, Tom Lehman and Payne Stewart. Also, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Colin Montgomerie. There’s now a new prospect for Team Annoyance: Patrick Reed. The Ryder Cup rookie -- pink-cheeked, stubbly, full-bellied -- went 3-0-1 at Gleneagles, his hands often balled into fists.
No American played better. No European player or fan could get in his head, particularly the moron behind the 1st tee on Sunday who yelled, “Did you practice your pooting, Patrick?” For the crime of missing a two-footer in a Saturday halve.
Reed, walking with a bouncy step and often in a too-small short-sleeved shirt, displayed a welcome working-class sensibility. With unpretentious candor, he talked about doing his job. Regarding his final match, he said, “I felt like I had to come out and compete.”
He nailed it. That’s the siren song of Ryder Cup golf: come out and compete. The U.S. Ryder Cup teams take their inspiration from the military, and it’s way too much. The Euros look to Premiere League football, and that gets it exactly right. The Ryder Cup is an intense but fun competition. You don’t have to win it, but it’s nice if you do. The winners of eight of the last 10 meetings get that. So does Patrick Reed. Tom Watson brought in military heroes to remind the U.S. players that a Ryder Cup is not war. Subliminally, though, it sent the message that it is. Watson would have done better bringing in Joan Baez.
If only Watson had had 11 other P. Reeds, Phil might be demanding that Watson return for a command performance at Hazeltine in 2016. In any event, Reed should be one of Mickelson’s anchors, when Phil is the captain (says our crystal ball) at the 2024 Ryder Cup team at Bethpage. Reed will be 34 and at the height of his powers.
Reed came out on Tour with the annoying label, carrying it with him from his days as an in-your-face grinder at Georgia and Augusta State. He’s different. (PTL!) At Hilton Head this year, it was strange to see him practicing with his headphones on as Watson stood watching him, looking for a golf chat. There was also Reed’s proclamation after his win at Doral in March, when he said he regarded himself as a top-five player in the world, before he had even played in a major championship.
Well, he’s played in four now, without distinction, plus one Ryder Cup, where he played like a top-five player in the world. In the Sunday singles lineup, he batted second and faced Henrik Stenson, who really is one of the top-five players in the world, and won 1 up.
Were you watching when Stenson made that 20-footer for birdie on 7, and Reed buried his own curving nine-footer for bird right on top of him? He plucked up his ball with the match all square and marched to the next tee while making an aggressive finger-to-lips quiet people response to the spectators. He’ll be the kind of player opposing fans and players love to hate for years to come.
When the Stenson match was over, the loser paid the victor an insightful compliment: “He didn't give me much for free today.” Giving yourself a chance on every green is the ultimate recipe for match-play success. See: Woods, Tiger, 1991-’96. Never beat yourself.
At Gleneagles, Watson provided enough raw material to keep the Golf Channel talking heads chatting for weeks, including his odd decision to rest Reed and his fellow Texan, Jordan Spieth, for the Friday afternoon fourball session. On Friday morning, in the better-ball session, Reed and Spieth, 21, needed only 14 holes to win their match. The boys were ready, eager and expecting to go. Really, there could be a PGA of America inquiry: What was Watson thinking and when was he thinking it? The Europeans went 3.5-.5 on Friday afternoon. At least Team Texas played twice on Saturday. The youngins were 2-0-1 over the first two days.
Reed was having the time of his life. Asked about his response to the fans on the 7th green, he said, “I was doing it all in fun.”
Did Reed really use the word fun while discussing the Ryder Cup? OMG -- he gets it! First time out and the kid figured out the whole thing.
He has a certain mental quickness, this Patrick Reed, and his pugnaciousness too. He’s out of an important Ryder Cup tradition: annoying-and-great. He’s not on the roster yet. Give him time.