Born in San Antonio and made for Ryder Cups, young American Patrick Reed sent his U.S. team to Sunday’s singles matches before the sun-splashed gathered masses at Hazeltine National Golf Club with a 9½-6½ lead, an advantage one point fewer than it squandered on another Sunday four years ago.
Reed did so Saturday afternoon, leading a 3-1 American conquest in four-ball play that all began with the 26-year-old Texan and a birdie barrage reminiscent of another golfer made for Ryder Cup play.
In 2012, Europe’s Ian Poulter birdied his final five holes on Saturday afternoon, a performance that might have been a precursor for a Sunday now known simply, at least to the Europeans, as “The Miracle At Medinah.”
This time, the Americans must win five of 12 singles matches to take the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008 and redeem their team for a 2012 Sunday when they needed just 4½ points and reached 3½ after going 3-8-1 in singles play.
They will do so against inspired European star Rory McIlroy, the first player due off the first tee for his team Sunday morning. He’s batting leadoff after he only played more passionately — and better — the more some voices in the gallery flung insults at him in a nationalistic competition that turned ugly at times on Saturday.
Knowing his team needs something similar to 2012, Europe captain Darren Clarke will send out McIlroy and Henrik Stenson — the world’s third- and fifth-ranked golfers — in the first two slots on Sunday. U.S. captain Davis Love III will counter with his two most dependable players, Reed and Jordan Spieth.
Other matches include Phil Mickelson against Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose against Rickie Fowler.
“No secret they were going to load the boat,” Love said.
If it were birdies, eagles and excitement Love always wanted from this Ryder Cup, that’s exactly what he received all afternoon on Saturday. That’s when the combination of another huge gallery, gorgeous autumn sunshine and little rough led to low scoring everywhere, from both sides.
Nobody did it better than Reed, who partnered with Spieth against Europe’s Stenson-Rose pairing for the third time in two days. Together, they won the rubber match with a 2 and 1 decision that inspired maybe both the Americans fans and their U.S. teammates.
Reed made six birdies and an eagle — all but two birdies on his front nine — on an afternoon when he holed a 90-yard shot from the fairway for that eagle at the par-5 sixth hole.
“He’s Captain America for us,” Spieth said afterward.
All of it provided the patriotic pulse for a team that has won just one Ryder Cup since 1999.
“I was made for this kind of stuff,” said Reed, who is now 4-1-2 in two Ryder Cups. “Any time I can get in front of a crowd, especially Americans, it just fuels me. For some reason, getting hyped up doesn’t affect me. For some reason, the ball doesn’t seem to go much farther than other times. It’s interesting.”
Reed led and his teammates followed, winning two of the afternoon’s other three matches. J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore closed out their match when 10-time Ryder Cup player Lee Westwood missed a 2-foot putt on the 18th hole. Longtime friends Mickelson and Matt Kuchar teamed in a Ryder Cup for the time, with Kuchar delivering a bomb of a birdie putt on No. 13 while Mickelson birdied three of his final four holes.
The two celebrated Mickelson’s birdie putt that closed out their match against Garcia and Martin Kaymer at No. 17 with a shimmy dance between two guys old enough to know better.
“You can’t orchestrate something like that,” Mickelson said. “It kind of comes out.”
While those two danced (sort of), Spieth and Reed celebrated with shouts of joy as Reed’s 269-yard 4-wood shot — into a breeze, the ball below his feet — reached the par-5 16th hole in two shots.
“Before it even reached its apex, with the scene around us — the most amount of people either one of us has seen on a golf hole — we were both screaming,” Spieth said. “That’s how cool it was. I screamed, ‘Let’s go, Patrick!’ and I don’t know what he screamed at that point. That hole was so cool, walking up and just hearing [the noise]. He was getting what he deserved for what he did this afternoon against historically the best team they’ve had.”
That shot provided the exclamation point in a victory over Rose and Stenson, the 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalists who went 3-0-0 together at the 2014 Ryder Cup. Saturday’s final match, it also redeemed a morning halved match to Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello, which they led 4-up after 12 holes.
“We wanted Rose and Stenson again,” Spieth said. “They wanted to play us again.”
Love contemplated resting both Spieth and Reed after their morning loss, but a conversation with vice captain Tiger Woods made up his mind.
“He said, ‘You have to send them back out there,’ ” Love said.
So he did, and Reed rewarded him with an afternoon that will be remembered.
“I told Ian Poulter back in 2012 that he was built for the Ryder Cup,” Love said. “I think Patrick Reed is built for the Ryder Cup, too.”