CHASKA, Minn. — With every pump of his fist and full-throated celebratory yell, Patrick Reed gave the U.S. team a big boost of energy.
With every sharp shot he hit, Reed almost single-handedly carried the Americans to a near-comfortable lead at the close of play Saturday in the Ryder Cup.
Nobody was more in tune with the raucous galleries at Hazeltine National Golf Club than Reed, who appeared to be playing with a constant flow of adrenaline.
“I just feed off it for some reason, and for some reason the ball doesn’t seem to go that much farther than most times,” said Reed, who teamed again with Jordan Spieth to beat Europe’s power couple, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, 2 and 1 in afternoon four-ball competition.
Reed tallied six birdies and an eagle in the match.
“He just played incredible golf. He was inspired,” Rose said. “He kind of punished us every time he had a wedge in his hands.”
The highlight of the victory came one-third of the way through, when Reed dropped his approach shot onto the sixth green just right. The ball rolled back perfectly, plopping into the cup for an eagle and the second of four straight holes won by the U.S. pair.
Reed erupted in celebration, exchanging hard hand slaps and fist bumps with his partner and their caddies and pointing a double-arm pump as he yelled, “Come on! Come on!” at the crowd behind the ropes.
“I’m in the bunker, and I look at Jordan and I say, ‘What do you want me to do here?” Reed said. “He goes, ‘You can hit it over the bunkers.’ I hit it to a perfect yardage and knocked it in and just went nuts.”
Captain Davis Love III said he believes the 26-year-old Reed was “built” for Ryder Cup competition. This is his second foray into the biennial event, after posting a 3-0-1 record in 2014 in Scotland.
“He’s got that attitude,” said Love, who picked Reed for the leadoff singles match on Sunday, when he will square off against Europe’s Rory McIlroy.
In the morning foursomes, the Reed-Spieth tandem built a 4-up lead with seven holes left, before a furious comeback by the Spaniard duo of Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello halved that match. Love predicted during the lunchtime break that Reed would return “mad” after the frustrating finish.
As the American leaders weighed in with their suggested lineups for the afternoon, including a plan from Love’s son, vice captain Tiger Woods nudged the boss toward a final decision that kept Reed and Spieth together for a fourth match.
“I finally just said to Tiger, ‘Are we playing them or are we sitting them?'” Love said after the U.S. team took a 9½-to-6½ lead into the final day of singles play . “He said, ‘No, you have to send them back out there. They are playing so well.”
Reed acknowledged the frustration of letting a half-point slip away in the morning, but he was level-headed enough to realize how well he’d been playing.
“It’s not like we were making bogeys to lose holes. Not like we were giving holes away,” said Reed, ranked eighth in the world.
Reed and Spieth split their two matches on Friday with Rose and Stenson.
In deference to his superstar partner, Reed said he found it easier to play aggressively with the confidence that Spieth could pick him up after an errant shot. Spieth called Reed “Captain America” for his performance.
“He wanted to play five matches at the beginning of the week,” Spieth said. “Tiger told him he might be sitting one and he said, ‘You are not sitting me on any matches.'”
The 6-foot, 200-pound Texan lists college football as his first special interest in his bio in the PGA Tour media guide. Even in his rugby-style, horizontal-striped blue-and-red polo the Americans donned on Sunday, Reed often looked a little bit like a super fan in the crowd at a football game or even a quarterback coming back to the sideline after a clutch touchdown pass.
“I knew we had to come in today and fire on all cylinders,” Reed said. “We killed it yesterday afternoon against those guys, and we didn’t even have a chance. We knew we had to make birdies and once we started to make a couple, the flood gates were open.”