The biggest Friday story of the 2014 Ryder Cup is that the European team won a two-point lead at the end of the day. They were down a point, 2½ to 1½, after the morning Four-Ball matches, but came back strong in the afternoon Foursomes matches. The only points the U.S. team earned was a half point that Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler earned against Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia who made three closing birdies to save the halve and leave their team ahead 5 to 3.
That might be the biggest story, but the best story was Captain Tom Watson pairing rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed together. The luck of the draw paired them with Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter in Captain Paul McGinley’s attempt to ease the rookie Gallacher into the fray. Not only did they thrash them 5 and 4, they brought down Poulter, the l’enfant terrible of the European team who had been on a record run of seven consecutive Ryder Cup match wins.
Spieth said later that they weren’t the only ones who would have enjoyed a victory over Poulter, the European’s biggest cheerleader after Sergio Garcia:
“I don’t know what it is. I shouldn’t say everybody. I should say there are a few guys on our team that specifically would like to match up against Ian, and I know there are a few guys that came up and told us that they are very jealous that we had them today. We were excited about that.”
“Yeah, we’re not going to name who they are, but whatever it is, past history or just the fact that he’s known as being kind of The Ryder Cup wizard for the Europeans, he’s certainly not under our skin because we haven’t dealt with him before and I don’t think he’s under anyone’s skin. He’s just made a lot of putts in The Ryder Cup and he didn’t have his best stuff today.”
Those comments were a reflection of the way that Spieth and Reed approached the match; with confidence in their games and in the real possibility that beating Poulter was something they could achieve. Once you begin operating out of “possibility,” daunting goals begin being seen as manageable. And why not? It doesn’t always mean that the possibility will be realized, but there are those wondrous days…
But that didn’t really change the nerves on the first tee. Said Reed:
“I could barely breathe on the first tee.”
And Spieth found that his adrenaline gave him super hero powers:
“I hit my 3-wood further than Bubba’s drive (laughter).”
Reed expanded on the reality that hits you on the first tee:
“That’s one of those things, that you think you’re nervous, and you think you’ve got the nerves out and you feel real confident, even if you have a great warm up like we did.”
“And you get to that first tee, and all of a sudden, you’re stepping up and they call your name out and you put that peg in the ground; I was the first one to hit — I didn’t know if I could pull it back. I was like, good thing the wind is howling off to the right, because I can hold onto it a little bit and hit this fly floater and know it was going to come back. The good thing is I was able to put it in the fairway so Jordan could go and hit his Bubba-long 3-wood.”
And once you get infused with dealing with things out of a sense of possibility, you want more of this possibility that turns into success. Reed said that they were disappointed that Watson didn’t turn right around and send them back out in the afternoon:
“You know, whenever you feel like you’re playing really well, I felt like Jordan was hitting the ball really solid and making a lot of putts and I was hitting it well and I was putting extremely well.”
“I felt like in alternate-shot, him and I would have been great to go back out and take the momentum of what we just had done. But at the end of the day, Captain Watson, he picks pairings for a reason. He decides to put you in certain spots for a reason. I was over it when he told us we weren’t, so we’re just going to go rest, hit some balls and probably go out and cheer on our team.”
Spoken like a good soldier. They’re in the Four-Ball matches in the morning, third out, and paired with Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer.