Patrick Reed takes down Rory McIlroy in epic battle of big guns
American takes advantage as putter fails Europe’s main man down the stretch
Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates on the 18th green after winning his match as Rory McIlroy of Europe looks on at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
A slugfest for the ages, just as it should be between two golfing heavyweights. No quarter asked or given. Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed delivered the golfing equivalents of uppercuts, body blows and all the time bobbing and weaving until, on the 18th green in the top singles, the American rolled in an eight-footer for a closing birdie that gave him victory.
Just under four hours after teeing-off from a rocking first tee, where Reed was greeted like a superhero out of X-Men, he closed the deal. But this wasn’t fiction. A real life hero. In this latest Ryder Cup, nobody demonstrated the passion or let his clubs do the talking as much as Reed, who took down Europe’s biggest gun, McIlroy, by one hole.
For Europe, it was a chronic loss. Irreparable. For the United States, a massive fillip. A key step.
This was the Ryder Cup as it should be played. We had a potential flashpoint on the first hole, just after Reed had played out his approach from behind a tree. As McIlroy, in the middle of the fairway, prepared to play his wedge approach, a roar from the galleries carried it way to him. “Potato famine!” The perpetrator was immediately hushed by those around him.
And so it was that Reed and McIlroy went at it, the American consuming the energy from the galleries as if it were a rare source that he’d never get to experience again. A birdie on the Par 5 third gave McIlroy the lead one-up but Reed responded in the most spectacular fashion. On the drivable Par 4 fifth, where the tee was brought forward to 303 yards to encourage players to go for the green, Reed hit a bullet of a drive that finished on the green some six feet from the flag. Cue delirium. He rolled in the putt for an eagle two. Of course he did. But that was just the start of it.
The pair traded punches with ferocity and speed. The sixth was halved in birdies. The seventh was halved in birdies. When McIlroy rolled in a 35 footer for birdie on the eighth, he put his hand to his ear. “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you,” he roared to the mainly USA supporters gather in the grandstand behind the green.
All the time Reed looked at the Irishman and then studied his 18 footer for a birdie of his own. He holed the putt. Of course he. Reed wagged a finger in McIlroy’s direction and then the two moved towards each other before fist-thumping acknowledgement. Antagonism had turned to mutual admiration. And one they went, trading blow for blow, all square until the match turned on the 12th hole where McIlroy was bunkered by the greenside and failed to get up and down. After all the magic, a par was enough to give Reed the edge heading for home.
But the titanic duel continued. And, in a case of bad timing, McIlroy’s putter – so assured throughout this Ryder Cup – failed him. He’d a five-footer to win the 13th where Reed had failed to make a par save from a greenside bunker. McIlroy missed. And on the Par 5 16th, the match inexorably in Reed’s favour where McIlroy was in the rough off the tee and forced to lay up. Reed, from the fairway, went for the green in two only to find a greenside bunker. However, McIlroy’s approach was short and he failed to make his 25 footer for birdie. Reed got up and down for birdie from the sand. Two up.
How to keep it alive? With a little help from Reed as it turned out. On the Par 3 17th, Reed pulled his tee-shot into rough and, then, pitched across the green and into the rough on the other side. He couldn’t save par, and McIlroy rolled in a tricky four-footer for par to win and hole and ensure the duel would go the distance.
But on the 18th, Reed, so imperious through much of this Ryder Cup, showed his class. Although McIlroy hit his approach in to eight feet to match Reed’s approach, the American struck decisively and rolled in his fifth birdie. Job done.
“I knew today was going to be tough going against a guy like Rory, especially with how he was playing earlier this week. 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,” said Reed.
Every time he walked onto a green, Reed had been met with chants simply repeating his name. “Reed-Reed-Reed-Reed,” they went.
Afterwards, he acknowledged the role played by the crowds. “It gets you going and keeps you going. If you hit a bad shot, they pick you up so you can get out of it. If you hit a good shot, it just builds more momentum over the putts,” said Reed, who’d been the main man in defeat for the Americans at Gleneagles two years ago. This time, on home turf, he helped paint the town red!