Ryder Cup: Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy's match was an instant classic
Incredible. Sensational. Unbelievable. Ridiculous.
For one magnificent hour Sunday, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy torched Hazeltine National in the leadoff singles match. They played golf beyond compare, trading birdies and sinking putts in a scintillating stretch of one-upmanship. The battle was unprecedented in a Ryder Cup, unlike any golf ever seen on TV.
Reed defeated McIlroy 1-up in the head-to-head matchup between the Cup’s two hottest golfers, the pairing which every golf fan craved. The pairings gods delivered and the golfers crushed reasonable expectations, like a video game gone wild. In a must-win match certain to set the tone for either side, Reed and McIlroy’s four-hole front nine stretch will live forever in highlight packages and golf course grill rooms. Each putt, swing and crazed celebration seared into our heart, soul and mind.
“We want everyone to play well. We want to beat them at their best, we want them to beat us at our best,” said Reed, who improved to 6-1-2 in the Ryder Cup. “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 I’m pretty sure fun to watch.”
Fans watching at home screamed at the screen and scared the children. Twitter erupted in adjectives, emojis and exclamation points. Anyone not tuned in was implored to do so, immediately.
On the opening hole, the players gave a glimpse of the action ahead. Reed pulled his drive left into the trees, punched short of the green and chipped to the bottom tier, 20 feet below the hole. McIlroy airmailed the green from the fairway, but played a magnificent bunker shot to three feet for a certain par. Reed drilled the putt, setting off the first eruption of roars. McIlroy made par to halve.
McIlroy led 1-up through four. Then things turned wild. He birdied five, six, seven, eight - and lost ground to Reed. The American won the 303-yard par-4 No. 5 by hitting a drive eight feet from the flag. On No. 8, McIlroy buried a 40-footer from the front of the green. Reed answered, ramming home a 25-footer. The stars were 9-under combined in a four-hole stretch. Reed smiled. Rory laughed.
Europe’s longtime emotional leader Ian Poulter walked in the gallery, serving as a vice-captain. His spirit possessed them as putts vanished. Each celebration topped the last. They stared down each other and incited the crowd. They screamed, shook, turned red in the face and punched the sky. They bumped fists and patted backs while walking off the green. It was interaction from golf’s new generation, their passion and talent on display. Arnold Palmer may not have recognized the theatrics, but he would’ve appreciated the sportsmanship.
It was competitive not contentious. In a steam pot that’s cooked the game’s greatest, with the golf world staring and the 17-inch Cup dangling, Reed and McIlroy thrived.
The golden golf couldn’t last.
Perhaps all those explosions drained their energy. Both were playing their fifth match. They’d spent the entire weekend carrying the weight of a nation, a continent on their shoulders.
The putters cooled and quality of play slipped around the turn, where Hazeltine turns nasty, but the fight remained fierce. Reed seized his first lead on No. 12, the longest par-4 in Ryder Cup history, sinking a nine-footer for par.
The players halved 13 with par. Reed narrowly missed a chance to win 15. Reed’s blast from a shortsided greenside bunker guaranteed birdie at 16 and the match was dormie. McIlroy won 17 to extend it.
Both players stuffed their approach shots within 10 feet of the flag at No. 18. McIlroy never had the chance to putt.
WATCH: Best Shots from Reed vs. McIlroy