CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - Patrick Reed, ‘Captain America’ for the United States at Hazeltine National this week, and former ‘Boy Wonder’ Rory McIlroy served up an electrifying Ryder Cup duel for the ages on Sunday.
In the first match out in the last-day singles, the hottest players on either side treated the massive galleries to a birdie slugfest that finally ended with Reed winning one-up to earn the first point of the day for the home team.
Well after their contest was over, the U.S. fans were still chanting ‘Patrick Reed, Patrick Reed’ in a thunderous tribute to the burly Texan who ended an inspirational week with three-and-a-half points out of a possible five.
“To go out there and play the way I did this week, I don’t really know what to say,” an emotional Reed told reporters after racking up an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys in a brilliant display on a sun-baked layout.
”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.
“Anytime I get to wear red, white and blue means so much. It gives me goosebumps. It was amazing to be in front of our fans.”
Reed and McIlroy were always likely to provide a thrilling battle in the top match and they delivered in sensational fashion, particularly before the turn.
Watched by massive galleries, the duo went toe-to-toe like heavyweight boxers in a ring, time and again matching each other with stunning shot-making and a barrel-load of birdies.
McIlroy grabbed four birdies in a row from the fifth in an explosive front nine while Reed countered with four of his own, plus an eagle at the 303-yard par-four fifth where he drove the green and sank a seven-footer.
Reed’s eagle, which sparked huge roars of ‘USA, USA, USA’ from the crowd crammed round the green, got the match back to all square before the players treated the fans to a slice of magic, and sheer golfing theatre, at the par-three eighth.
McIlroy drained a 40-foot bomb for birdie from the front of the green and bellowed in delight, before yelling “Come on”.
He then put his hand behind his ear and screamed, “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you”, to the partisan crowd.
Reed responded with high drama, sinking a 20-footer from just off the green for a matching birdie to trigger deafening roars from the gallery before he wagged his finger in McIlroy’s direction, then waved his arms to whip up even more cheers.
In a wonderful show of sportsmanship, Reed bumped fists with a smiling McIlroy just off the green before the pair walked off to the ninth tee arm in arm.
Amid groans from a disappointed crowd, the American narrowly missed a 12-footer at the 15th that would have put him two-up but he made amends on the next hole with a conceded birdie four after hitting a brilliant bunker shot to two feet.
Reed stumbled with a bogey at the par-three 17th where his first effort overshot the green and his chip back trickled off the front into a collar of rough. McIlroy sank a nerve-jangling four-footer for par to cut the deficit to one-up.
In a fitting end to a duel of rare quality, both players hit exquisite approach shots at the par-four last, Reed’s ball finishing five feet from the pin, with McIlroy’s one foot closer, before the American sank his birdie putt.
Editing by Tony Jimenez