The hotel beds at the Team USA Ryder Cup hotel better be to Patrick Reed’s liking. He carried quite the load Saturday afternoon at Hazeltine National.
Reed, the feisty Texan who gets as amped as it comes in team golf, made six birdies and one crowd-pleasing hole-out eagle in his match paired with Jordan Spieth to defeat Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson 2 and 1 in the four ball session. The clutch performance was part of a red afternoon for the Americans, winning three of four matches to take a 9.5-6.5 lead into Sunday’s singles finals.
Rose and Stenson had a 1-up lead after four holes before Reed evened the match with a birdie. Then on the par-5 sixth Reed turned the match with one swing. His third shot from 90 yards away landed behind the hole and spun back into the cup for an eagle that shook Hazeltine’s perfectly manicured grounds.
Reed looked unstoppable after that, sticking approach shots close and brushing in putts as if he was casually playing a five-dollar Nassau – not with the eyes of the golf world on his ear-popping shots and loud “C’mon!” shouts.
Rose and Stenson didn’t go away quietly; Rose, the Olympic gold medalist this summer, chipped in twice to keep this international competition close. But Reed was not to be denied.
Europe picked up its lone point of the afternoon session when the red-hot duo of Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters took down Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson 3 and 1. McIlroy, who dealt with rude fans throughout his match and saw one get ejected after shouting a vulgar suggestion his way, didn’t have his best match. But Pieters was there to pick him up.
The Ryder Cup rookie made birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to put the match dormie. The Americans won the next two holes to extend the match but Pieters rolled in a birdie on the 17th hole for the win. In the three sessions McIlroy and Pieters have played this Ryder Cup, they have never trailed.
The other two American points were close matches.
Lee Westwood, making his 11th Ryder Cup appearance for Europe, watched a point slip off the board thanks to the blade of his putter. Westwood missed putts from inside 5 feet on the last four holes to lose his match paired with Danny Willett 1-up to J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore.
In perhaps the most surprising match of the afternoon, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar took a 1-up lead on Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer on the third hole and lever let go, winning 2 and 1. Kuchar did not play in the morning session and Mickelson, paired with Rickie Fowler, looked anything but steady in a convincing 4 and 2 loss to McIlroy and Pieters.
McIlroy, who ended Friday with an emphatic eagle and gave the plus-sized crowd a bow, picked up in that match right where he left off. He answered Mickelson's long birdie putt on No. 1 with one of his own then struck when the Americans posted bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5 to go 3-up after five holes. Mickelson and Fowler showed some spark by winning back-to-back holes at the turn but then Pieters picked up some of McIlroy's magic.
The 24-year-old showed off a hot putter on the back nine, closing the match out with a birdie on the 16th hole.
It could have been a two-point lead for the U.S. if not for a mighty comeback over Spieth and Reed from the Spanish duo of Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Facing 4-down without a win walking to the 13th hole the Spaniards won holes 13, 15, 16 and 17 to get the match all square. The match only went to 18 because Spieth's birdie putt on 17 hung on the edge, refusing to let gravity do its job.
The U.S. picked up a point with Snedeker and Brooks Koepka topping Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick 3 and 2. The Americans won the first hole, and never trailed in the match despite being wickedly wild off the tee.
In the week's most even match, Rose and Chris Wood broke through on the seventh hole to take a 1-up lead on Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson. The Euros picked up a point when the match finished by that score.
Sunday singles pairings will be announced later Saturday evening.