The announcement of Arnold Palmer's death was made a week ago on Sunday evening. Too bad the King couldn't have made it until this Sunday evening, perhaps passing away after spending the afternoon in front of a television at his home in Latrobe, Pa.
"The way Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy went at it; Arnie would have thought it was great," said Hollis Cavner, a Palmer friend. "The rivalry, the fun, the shot-making, the playing to the crowd … as long as it was respectful, he would've loved it."
It was respectful and magnificent. It was the best four hours I've ever seen in golf.
On Friday and again Saturday, this event had more the feel of an overhyped money grab by the PGA of America and the European Tour, rather than some wonderful tradition in a sport with many of them.
This was a Ryder Cup that had been taken over by a hard-drinking, belligerent crowd with only four groups on the course and too little golf to watch.
Then came Sunday, with 12 singles matches, and with McIlroy and Reed setting an immediate example of what golf can be at its best.
The Euros were in serious trouble as McIlroy and Reed, the two giants of these matches, piped their drives and strode off the first tee.
The U.S. lead was 9½-6½, meaning it needed five points from the 12 matches to regain the hardware. Europe captain Darren Clarke had loaded the top of his lineup, leaving some very shaky players for the bottom half of the draw.
A European comeback was highly unlikely. Without a point from McIlroy, it was near impossible.
McIlroy was his marvelous self. And Reed responded with the guts and defiance that make him a Ryder Cup marvel.
McIlroy was 1-up and came to No. 5, a short par-4, looking for a birdie. He got one. Not good enough. Reed drove the green and made a 15-footer for eagle.
That set off the daytime fireworks — matching birdies on the par-5 sixth, and the same on par-4 seventh. There, Reed dropped a birdie putt, and McIlroy dropped one on top of him, and gestured to his beer-soaked tormenters in the gallery.
Then came the par-3 eighth, the little tester with a good-sized green.
McIlroy was at the bottom of the green. He gave the putt enough juice to get there, and it careened into the hole. Rory went wild with triumph, cupping his hand to his ear and shouting, "I can't hear you."
Reed had a 20-foot putt from the left edge to keep the match square. Drain-o.
The gallery howled, as Reed looked at McIlroy and gave him a Mutombo finger wave. Mclroy smiled. Reed gave a couple of arm pumps after he took the ball out of the hole.
Then, McIlroy offered a fist, Reed bumped it, and they patted backs while walking off the green.
At that moment, Johnny Miller was reported to be saying McIlroy-Reed had "the makings of the greatest match ever on television."
Greatness with that much emotion was not sustainable. McIlroy allowed Reed to win the 12th with a par. Reed remained 1-up on the tee at the terrific, par-5 16th.
McIlroy laid up behind the water. Reed was in the trap on the high right of the green. As Rory was ready to hit, one of the drunks shouted, McIlroy stepped back, took his time, and then semi-clunked a wedge and was way short of the pin.
The shot from the trap was downhill for Reed. Hit too hard, it will run to the other side of the green. Reed hit it perfect, landing the ball on the last inch of greenside rough. The ball nestled near the pin.
Reed went to 2-up there, gave a hole back with a bogey on No. 17, and then they went to the long, uphill par-4 18th.
McIlroy murdered his tee ball and gave an emphatic twist of his right shoulder. Reed also delivered a big tee ball and mimicked Rory's shoulder twist.
They matched hellacious approach shots to within 6 feet. It took a measurement to decide Reed was away. His putt was downhill, but not severely so.
Middle of the cup.
Match over — Reed 1-up, and the U.S. with its first dramatic point on the way to a 17-11 blowout.
Reed celebrated with those arm pumps of his, accepted congratulations from McIlroy, and was given a chant of tribute from the bleachers: "Pat-rick R-eee-d, Pat-rick R-eee-d."
"It's big Ryder Cup family," Reed said. "We want everyone to play well. We want to beat them at their best …"
It was a match that Arnold Palmer would've loved: two players at their best, competing with fire and respect.