Jet lag has its compensations. After my return from a 10-day trip to Scotland, I kept falling asleep around 8 pm EDT –- 1 a.m. Edinburgh time –- and waking up between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Connecticut time. This, however, was during the Ryder Cup whose TV coverage, as U.S. golf fans know, began at 3 a.m. EDT for the first two days, 6 a.m. on the last day. I got to see it all…painful as it was after the first morning’s set of matches.
It was a sad spectacle for the American side, but sadder yet was the aftermath, which came off as mostly sour grapes, especially from the preternaturally impertinent Patrick Reed. You might recall that after winning a few tournaments by the age of 23, the gifted Reed declared himself one of the five best players in the world. (He was ranked 44th in the world at the time.)
Reed misses Spieth
In the wake of the disastrous Ryder Cup, Reed did not go quietly onto the losers’ bench. He complained after the team press conference about Captain Furyk pairing him with Tiger Woods instead of Jordan Spieth, with whom he had enjoyed a stellar record of success in the two previous Ryder Cups. “We make each other better,” Reed said of his partnerships with Spieth. True love never runs smooth, and Spieth apparently preferred the company of his longtime friend, Justin Thomas. Furyk put them out there together where they ran into the Molinari-Fleetwood buzzsaw.
Reed played mediocre golf with Woods in their first loop around the course and then really spit the bit in match two, obviously spooked by the narrow fairways at Le Golf National, which his golf ball rarely found. (Some observers believe Reed would not have broken 80 on his own ball.) Reed, whose signature attitude is to thumb his nose at hostile crowds, the larger the crowds the better, apparently thought that partnering with the most famous golfer in the world and major gallery magnet didn’t make his game better, and let the world know it. Brooks Koepka explained the U.S. loss much better: "We didn't make the putts. We didn't hit the fairways."
The lonely game
Virtually every competitive professional round on the PGA Tour is played individually, and I don’t believe any pro golfer has complained, publicly at least, that the members of the threesome or foursome they were matched with over the four days of a PGA event failed to make them “better.” As you stand over a shot in team play, you are out there alone, and whether it is Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth standing on the other side of the fairway, they cannot swing the club for you or make you any better than you are in the moment. All team golf does is apply the pressure that comes with the possibility that you will let others down. A hotshot like Patrick Reed is supposed to thrive on such pressure. He didn’t.
Once you have the ability to make all the shots, golf is almost entirely played between the ears. It was in that few-inch space that Patrick Reed didn’t have it for the team rounds of the Ryder Cup –- and certainly not in his comments after.