SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Patrick Reed had a bad Saturday morning — he lost again in the fourballs session — and his afternoon wasn’t any better. He did what you’re supposed to do in team golf, when you’re on the bench. You get out there in the name of team and flag and country. You cheer.
And so there he was on the back a three-row golf cart, standing beside the tall, lanky Tony Finau. They were watching the first match of the alternate-shot session, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson versus Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Finau and Reed were Mutt & Jeff back there, trying to be useful. It’s a thankless task but you put on a brave face and do it. The Europeans won that match, 2 and 1.
Reed, halfway through his year as the reigning Masters champion, stayed off his phone Friday afternoon. He didn’t need to hear what Francesco Molinari’s brother, Eduardo, winner of the 2005 U.S. Amateur, was tweeting about him. (“Captain America must have no passport! No sights of him in Paris!”) It was a harsh comment, but rooted in truth. Brother Frankie and Tommy Fleetwood took down Woods and Reed on Friday and again on Saturday. If Reed had to actually play his ball into the hole, he might have struggled to break 80 on Saturday. His Friday card shows two birdies. His Saturday card shows one. Woods, never a particularly chatty playing partner, was the unofficial captain of that twosome. Of course he was. He’s Tiger Woods. But there were few exchanges between Woods and Reed. That stood in contrast to the Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed partnership at the 2014 and ’16 Ryder Cups and the 2015 and ’17 Presidents Cups. Those guys seemed to have four-minute exchanges over 100-yard pitch shots. Talk city.
Furyk, though, liked the idea of matching “the fiery and the stoic,” and cited, several days ago, the success that Sergio Garcia (fiery) and Luke Donald (stoic) had together. They won five straight matches together before losing their sixth and final one. Furyk, with Fred Funk, was on the losing end of the first Donald-Garcia pairing.
But pairing any high-energy player with Woods can present a challenge. Woods is so methodical. If you’ve been watching Woods play Ryder Cup golf through his career — this is his eighth team — you can only conclude that playing with him as a partner can be a challenge, because his presence is immense, and because he sets the tone.
That’s an observation. Saturday night, as play was wrapping up, Reed wasn’t buying it. He’s 28, 14 years younger than Woods. He grew up idolizing Woods. He wears red and black on Sundays because of him. And he said that playing with Woods was “a blast.”
“After Friday, we both wanted sweet revenge when we went out there, together,” he said, still on the back of that three-row card. “But those guys played perfect golf. It wasn’t like if one guy was out of the hole the other guy was making a par. The other guy was making a birdie.”
That’s not completely hyperbolic. The Englishman who nearly won the U.S. Open and the Italian who did win the British Open played spectacular golf against Woods and Reed. But Woods’s golf here in suburban Paris was nothing like it was at this year’s British Open or at the PGA Championship or last week at East Lake at the Tour Championship. He looks tired. Reed’s golf here looks nothing like it did at Augusta. He looked…misplaced.
Golf has changed in the years since Woods played on his first Ryder Cup team, in 1999. It used to be that if you won the Masters, and got to travel around the world in the green club coat, you could ride that distinction for a year and far longer. In one sense, you of course can. For decades to come, Reed and Woods will be sitting at the same dinner table on the Tuesday night before the Masters. There’s aura forever around all the former Masters champions, when you’re at Augusta. But there was no aura around Reed here at Le Golf Club National, built on a former landfill.
Reed said that playing as the reigning Masters champion didn’t feel any different than playing in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine or the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland when he was just Patrick Reed, Tour winner. He also said playing with Tiger Woods as a playing partner was no different than playing with Tiger Woods as an opponent.
“It was just what I expected,” Reed said, just like “when I’ve played with him before.“
Might have been putting on a brave face? Of course! Is that acceptable? Absolutely. Did we take every word of it to the bank? No.
Anyway, on Sunday Patrick Reed can be himself. He can go about his business his own way.
Remember Hazeltine two years ago, and Reed’s Sunday match against Rory McIlroy? The ear-bending. The upper cuts. Reed won, 1 up. Reed goes off in the 10th spot on Sunday, against Tyrrell Hatton. Expect noise. He might even pound his chest, if his match still means something. If his match matters, expect the Reed you know. Expect the Reed you love.