The masses arrived early at Hazeltine National and fanned out across the sprawling course. Many rushed to find viewpoints near the first tee, where the singing and chanting began before daybreak.
The Euro contingent specialized in clever adaptations, turning Martin Kaymer’s name into a revision of “Karma Chameleon.’’ This was “Golf: The Musical,’’ until Patrick Reed showed up with a scowl and a visible sense of purpose, and the songs turned into roars.
Reed has no connection to Minnesota, but he was the only player who started a morning match wearing short sleeves. Go ahead, Vikings fans; consider that an homage to Bud Grant and Upper Midwest hardiness.
After three consecutive losses and two years of task force study, the United States chose a guy who has never finished in the top 10 of a major championship to hit the first shot of the Hazeltine Ryder Cup.
Reed is not the most celebrated or accomplished American golfer. The stories about his past golfing life read like A.J. Pierzynski’s efforts to alienate half the cities in Major League Baseball. After winning Doral in 2014, Reed declared himself a “top five’’ player in the world — one of the many things about American golf that Rory McIlroy has satirized in the past few years.
That kind of braggadocio can hide insecurity, or reveal the kind of self-belief required to perform well in the Ryder Cup.
Friday morning, Reed drank in the high-decibel cheers, lashed at the ball, then whipped the club back in a recoil that bespoke confidence, if not arrogance. His shot bisected the fairway, his team won the first match, and Reed became the latest example of a golfer who thinks of Ryder Cup pressure as a performance enhancer.
Reed went 3-0-1 at Gleneagles in 2014 while his team produced just 11½ points. He and Jordan Spieth waxed the estimable pairing of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson in the first match on Friday, leading the U.S. team to its first sweep of a morning session since 1975.
Reed and Spieth led off the afternoon matches, as well, birdied six of the first 11 holes and still found themselves three holes down to Rose and Stenson. The eventual 5 and 4 loss left Reed with a Ryder record of 4-1-1.
Reed is becoming a pudgier Poulter. Ian Poulter was the catalyst for the Euros’ stunning comeback at Medinah in 2012 and, like Reed, is a fine player lacking a major who breathes fire — or shushes Euro crowds — when playing under a flag.
Reed pumped his fists all morning, and as he and Spieth won the first hole of the afternoon match. He flipped his putter after a key miss in the afternoon, demonstrating how quickly Ryder Cup fortunes can change.
The 4-0 lead became 4-1 after the afternoon loss, and by the end of the day the Euros trailed just 5-3, hardly a daunting deficit for a team that came back from 10-6 down in Medinah.
Spieth and Reed didn’t lose to Rose and Stenson so much as they were defeated by the reigning British Open and Olympic champions.
In Reed and Spieth’s first four matches as a team, they lost eight holes. Friday afternoon, they lost despite making six birdies in their first 11 holes.
“Any time you are taking on Rose and Stenson, it’s never simple,’’ Reed said. “We had a great game plan coming in. We stuck with it.
“Just hit a lot of greens. In alternate shot you have to do that, give yourself opportunities. And we were lucky enough to be able to hit a lot of greens and have good looks.’’
With the Euros closing the gap, the U.S. may need another strong day from Reed and Spieth. The two have produced 3½ points as a Ryder Cup team, already tied for fifth most in U.S. history.
They’re batting cleanup on Saturday morning, when Reed is again likely to pay unintentional homage to Bud, in apparel and fearlessness.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On