Sports writer Max McLean reflects on Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy’s thrilling Ryder Cup encounter.
For the first 10 holes of Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy’s epic singles match, crowds, armchair fans, writers and commentators watched with their jaws collectively dropped.
To quote the commentary from Tiger Woods’ famous Masters putt in 2005: “In your life, have you ever seen anything like that?”
When Reed v McIlroy was all over, the tension had somewhat dissolved. Team USA looked to have the Ryder Cup more or less in their hands, and McIlroy’s putter had cooled to the extent that Reed had looked favourite to win their singles match for a short while.
But for a couple of hours this singles match became the centre of the sporting universe.
Ladies and gentlemen, Rory McIlroy!#TeamEurope https://t.co/zoXiqBLDml
— Ryder Cup Team EUR (@RyderCupEurope) October 2, 2016
This match was to be golf’s own Thrilla in Manila, after both men had shown form throughout the week and landed shots on one another with a startling regularity that Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier would have struggled to match.
Blow after blow, the golf was extraordinary. Putting from 8ft, 20ft, 50ft – the bar was raised time after time.
Like all great rivalries, braggadocio was never far from sight and, like all great rivalries, both men had the goods to back it up.
Rory’s roar was met with Reed’s wagging finger of defiance, while the Northern Irishman fought fire with fire, screaming in the face of a partisan crowd.
In some quarters, the boastful, box-office clash was derided as not being in the spirit of golf, but unlike some of the comments from members of the American crowd the day before, this never boiled over.
The peak of competition came at the eighth. McIlroy holed from 50ft before screaming, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” in the direction of Reed’s fans, but Reed matched his opponent with a superb putt of his own, and wagged his finger once more in McIlroy’s direction.
The pair then exchanged a fist bump of mutual respect, and perhaps that’s what kept the doors from being blown off.
From then it was a tense competition, but nothing personal. McIlroy faltered first in the closing stages, went behind and handed the initiative to Reed, who held on to his chance. Rory went the distance, but lost on points.
It was the best of the Ryder Cup: passionate crowds, boastful strides, booming putts and unbridled emotion, but, more than that, it was a rivalry that took viewers to the edge of their seats – and then further.
Reed won and McIlroy lost, but for once the final result will not be the only thing the history books remember.