REED & RORY WANT A REMATCH
These two (and the fans) are hoping it can happen one more time.
Davis love has all sorts of mementos from the 2016 Ryder Cup scattered around his house. There are two, though, that he probably enjoys looking at more than any of the others. ▶ One is the ball that Ryan Moore played on the 18th hole of his singles match with Lee Westwood. When Westwood conceded Moore’s one-foot par putt shortly after 4 o’clock on that bright October Sunday in Minnesota, the Ryder Cup returned to the United States. ▶ Moore was instantly surrounded by his teammates and never bothered to pick the ball up. Love picked it up for him. ▶ “In 1993, when I made the putt at The Belfry that clinched retaining the cup, I never got the ball from the hole because I was mobbed, and then I went to shake hands with Costantino (Rocca),” Love says. “I always regretted that. I wanted to make sure Ryan got that golf ball.” ▶ But when Love tried to hand the ball over to Moore, the new hero shook his head. “You keep it, captain,” he said. “I want you to have it.” The other cherished memento is even smaller than Moore’s golf ball. It’s the tee that Patrick Reed used to hit his drive at No 18 earlier that Sunday during his epic singles match with Rory McIlroy. “As soon as he hit it, he started walking down the fairway with this strut in his step like he knew he’d hit it 50 yards past Rory,” Love says, laughing. “I just went over and grabbed it. I wanted something to remember that match by – one way or the other. “I knew Rory had hit it way past Patrick,” Love says, “but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to let the match get away. He knew it; Rory knew it; I knew it.” McIlroy had, in fact, hit his tee shot 30 yards past Reed. As Love says, it didn’t matter. Reed hit his second shot to 10 feet and made the birdie putt that clinched the match. McIlroy, who had hit his second shot to six feet, knew Reed wasn’t going to miss the putt. “He hadn’t missed all day,” he said. “Why would he miss that one?” When Love told Reed later about picking up the tee, Reed laughed. “I know,” he said. “I saw you.” To this day, Love has no idea how it was possible for Reed to see him. “He was 25 yards up the fairway, practically running. He’d have made a great point guard with that kind of peripheral vision.” Although Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson would later halve a superb match – each shot 63 – it is the ReedMcIlroy duel that those who were at Hazeltine that day remember as if it ended 15 minutes ago. “Tiger was walking with them, and he had his radio open,” says Jim Furyk, who will captain this year’s American team outside Paris beginning September 28. “We would hear this massive cheer come through the radio, and then he’d have to wait at least a minute, maybe longer, to talk to us because it was so loud.” At one point, Woods, who has put on some shows of his own, said, “You guys won’t believe what I’m seeing right now.”
the match that almost wasn’t
The Americans had a 9½-6½ lead at the end of Saturday’s fourball matches. But everyone on both sides remembered Medinah in 2012, when the US team had led, 10-6, going into the singles matches. Love had been the US captain that year, too. Late that Sunday night, when he went to the European team room to congratulate captain Jose Maria Olazabal and his players on their victory, his good friend Darren Clarke had taken him aside, put an arm around him and said, “What the hell were you thinking?” Europe had, as Love now puts it, “loaded the boat,” putting its best four players out first, knowing it needed blue on the board early. Love had put out a more balanced lineup. Before you could say, Miracle at Medinah, Europe won the first five matches and went on to retain the cup. “What I learned that day was, I had spent months thinking about the pairings for the first two days,” Love says, “and I did a good job with it. But I spent maybe an hour or two thinking about Sunday’s lineup, and that’s 12 matches. When they
asked me to captain again, I vowed not to make the same mistake.”
After the matches ended on Saturday at Hazeltine, Love sent his five vice captains – Woods, Furyk,Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker and Bubba Watson – to the back of the Hazeltine locker room to start putting pairings together. He sat in the club’s dining area – the US team room – with his players to talk to them about the next 24 hours.
By the time he walked in to where his assistants were waiting, Love was having a bit of a panic attack. For months the plan had been to load the boat on Sunday – whether leading or trailing.A fast start was imperative to either keep spirits high, among players and the rabid crowd, or to get them going.
Love thought Clarke – now his opposing captain – might push McIlroy and Henrik Stenson to the third and fourth spots because McIlroy had traditionally played third. He wanted his two best players, Reed and Jordan Spieth, to go head-to-head with them.
“Maybe we should move Patrick and Jordan back,” Love said.
Everyone disagreed.“We reminded him what the plan had been all along,” Furyk says. “If they moved Rory and Stenson back, so be it. But we wanted to come out guns blazing.”
There was one other thing.“I think deep down we knew Rory was going first,” Love says.“He had to go first.”
‘THEIR FANS ARE CLEVER AND FUNNY— FUNNIER THAN WE ARE. OUR CROWDS ARE LOUDER.’ —PATRICK REED
McIlroy felt that way, too, and had told Clarke that. He thought that Love wouldn’t make the same mistake twice and would lead with Reed, who had taken on the mantle of Captain America that week.
“I was going to do whatever the captain told me to do, of course,” Reed says. “But I wanted to be out there first, and I wanted to play Rory. I loved the challenge.”
With Ian Poulter hurt and in the role of vice captain, with Graeme McDowell not on the team and with veterans Westwood and Martin Kaymer struggling, McIlroy had arrived at Hazeltine knowing he had to lead a team with six rookies.
Clarke knew it, too. “Rory had to go out first,” he says. “He’d been our leader all week, the guy who took charge in the team room, the guy everyone looked to. I was hoping he would come to me and say, ‘I want to play first.’ I’m not honestly sure what I would have done if he’d said he wanted to stay in that third spot, where he’d been comfortable in the past.
“I didn’t expect him to say that, and he didn’t let me down,” Clarke says. “Once he said he wanted to play first, it wasn’t that difficult to make the rest of the lineup. Rory had to be the one out there first not only to play Reed, who I knew would be out first, but to take on the American fans – again.”
For two days, McIlroy had taken on the opposition inside and outside the ropes. “I had to do it,” he says. “I was playing well coming in (winning the Tour Championship), and some of the veteran guys who had been our leaders weren’t there to lead as in the past. I needed to show the guys not only that we could win but we weren’t going to be intimidated by the crowd.
“I thought if I could take Patrick down, get us off to a fast start, we could rally the way we had at Medinah,” McIlroy says. “I knew this was different from Medinah. There, we’d won the last two points on Saturday to close the gap to four.We had the momentum. This time, we’d given up points late, let them build the margin. My job was to get the momentum back.”
going ‘full hulk’
One couldn’t fault McIlroy’s effort. He birdied five of the first eight holes. As it turned out, that wasn’t enough. McIlroy birdied the third hole to go 1 up before Reed drove the short par-4 fifth and made an eight-foot putt for eagle to even the match.
The next three holes were what Woods would describe as needing to be seen to be believed. Both men birdied 6, both men birdied 7. At the par-3 eighth, McIlroy had what Reed now describes as “a five-million-foot putt” for birdie. McIlroy drained it, then went – in the words of Matt Kuchar – full Hulk,” screaming at the top of his lungs, doing everything but tearing his shirt off.
Reed had about a 25-footer to match him. He rolled it in the centre, and the place was so loud it felt as if the roof would come off the building – except the roof was blue sky . . . and it almost came off.
Reed turned and pointed his finger at McIlroy, and for a split second it looked as if the situation might turn hostile. It didn’t. McIlroy offered a fist bump, and the two made the long walk to the ninth tee side by side.
“That walk might be what I remember most from that day,” Reed says.“We
‘WINNING THE RYDER CUP IS DIFFERENT – IT’S UNIQUE. BUT THE NEXT-BEST THING IS LOSING THE RYDER CUP. I WOULDN’T MISS ONE FOR THE WORLD.’ —RORY MCILROY