Ryder Cup atmosphere transforms Reed into a beast

By Joe PosnanskiOctober 2, 2016, 3:00 am

CHASKA, Minn. – There’s a fun scene, a scene my daughters love, in the movie “The Avengers.” Bruce Banner shows up for the big fight at the end against aliens flying and smashing up buildings in New York.

“Dr. Banner,” Captain America says, “now might be a good time to go get angry.”

“That’s my secret, Captain,” Banner says as he transforms into the Hulk. “I’m always angry.”

That scene makes me think of a tempestuous and awesome young player named Patrick Reed. Did you see him Saturday at Hazeltine? It was as stormy a golf environment as you will ever see, more Alabama-Auburn than United States-Europe. The intensity of the huge American galleries teetered on the edge – sometimes went over edge. The pressure was as thick as fog.

And Patrick Reed was invincible. He made the clutch putts. He hit breathtaking shot after breathtaking shot. He tormented the European players with his brilliance. On the 16th hole in his afternoon match, he hit a 4-wood into the wind off a downslope, and it was so astounding, his partner Jordan Spieth would say, “before it reached its apex, we were both screaming. That’s how cool it was. I screamed, ‘Let’s go, Patrick!’ I don’t know what he screamed.”

What is it that triggers inside the mind and body of Patrick Reed in these moments? What is it that transforms him from a normally excellent player into something else at the Ryder Cup, something huge and green and scary and all but unbeatable?

“Good question,” he says. Well, it is a good question.

Reed is unlike anyone else in professional golf. He’s 26 years old and it seems all his young life he has been driven by demons. As a kid, according to Shane Ryan’s book “Slaying the Tiger,” he would introduce himself to people with, “I’m Patrick Reed, and I’ll kick the **** out of you at golf anytime you want.” He got booted off the team at Georgia and was almost kicked off the team at Augusta State. There have been cheating allegations. There was at least one and perhaps two underaged drinking arrests. He ticked off just about everyone by showing up on the PGA Tour and almost instantly declaring himself one of the five greatest players in the world.

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Mainly though, when you look at Patrick Reed’s life, you just see a lot of people who could not stand the guy. But as the old line goes, he couldn’t stand them either so it was all even.

And, through it all, there has been one constant in his game: The more divisive his circumstances, the better he plays golf. He twice led tiny Augusta State to the NCAA Championship, a staggering achievement. And he was unbeatable, literally, in the tournament. He went 6-0 in his matches, twice crushing U.S, Amateur champion Peter Uihlein and once beating future PGA Tour stalwart Harris English – the latter happening even though it has been reported that several of his Augusta State teammates were actually rooting for English.

This has continued on into his professional career. Reed is famous around the Tour for being a loner. For a time his wife Justine was his caddie, now it is his brother-in-law Kessler Karain. They call themselves “Team Reed,” and no one else really gets into that circle. Reed almost always practices alone. He usually plays practice rounds alone. He has severed ties with his parents and sister – he did not invite them to his wedding, and last year Justine had his parents escorted out of the U.S. Open. This has played out in various heartbreaking ways on social media.

“Happy birthday, my son,” Bill Reed wrote on Twitter this past August. “May your day be incredible as it was for us 26 years ago. Love, Dad. #PatrickReed.” Below was a photograph of Bill with his young son watching a golf tournament.

Through it all, Patrick Reed wins. He became just the sixth player – after Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia – to win four PGA Tour events before his 25th birthday. He won his first tournament with a staggering shot in a playoff against Spieth, a shot Spieth would call one of the greatest he ever saw. He won The Barclays just a month ago and moved into the top 10 of the world rankings.

But he really captured everyone’s attention at his first Ryder Cup two years ago. That American team, you will remember, was a bit of a mess. The PGA of America had brought on legend Tom Watson to bring some discipline and toughness to a team that wanted neither and resented him for it. The American players were bitter and generally overmatched by a superior European team.

And there, in the middle of it all, was Patrick Reed, and he was a revelation. He was paired with Spieth, the ultimate dark-side-light-side pairing, and together they sliced through Europe. On Sunday, In his singles match against Henrik Stenson, Reed made a huge birdie putt at the seventh hole and then held his finger to his lips, shushing the crowd. They booed him relentlessly. He never looked happier.

That is unless you count Saturday, when he was making the most incredible shots while the unchecked crowd cheered him like he was LeBron. He would shake his fists and shout, “Come on!” He would wave his arms and ask the crowd for more. Golfers so rarely play in this sort of crazy environment, where European bad shots are cheered lustily, where people will shout, “Get out of the hole” to opposing players' putts and occasionally break out with a “USA! US!A!” chant, where fans serenade Rory McIlroy with “Sweet Caroline,” as a cheap shot referring to his breakup with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

“Good times never seemed so good!” McIlroy sang back because, like Reed, he too loves this craziness, thrives in it. Sunday afternoon, as if by providence, Reed will play McIlroy in the very first singles match, and that is an electrifying possibility. McIlroy is, of course, the better player. He’s the No. 3-ranked player in the world at the moment but after his almost unbelievable victory at the Tour Championship last week, most would tell you he’s back to being the best player on earth.

But this is the Ryder Cup, and something in Patrick Reed detonates in these moments.

What is that something? Saturday, there were numerous theories about it, psychoanalysis about his need to belong, his hunger to prove people wrong, his fury lifting him to a higher place. “I just feed off [adrenaline] for some reason,” he says. Truth is, we don’t know.

But there is a great story about Reed in Ian O’Connor’s ESPN piece from a couple of years ago. O’Connor found an old high school teammate named Darren Bahnsen, who said that one time he was playing a practice round with Reed and he hit a good drive, 275 yards down the middle. He felt good.

“Patrick said, ‘Man, that’s a good drive,” Bahnsen remembered. “And then he got down on two knees and hit his ball 10 yards past me. From his knees.”

Now, you have to ask yourself: What can you say about a person who would see a teammate hit a good drive, feel good about himself, and then go down on both knees and drive the ball past him? You’d have to say that guy's talented. You’d also have to say he’s someone who has something inside driving him, something not easy to understand. It’s the Ryder Cup, so yes, now’s a good time for Patrick Reed to get angry. Then, maybe that’s his secret. Maybe he’s always angry.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.