Of all the fallout from the USA’s thorough waxing at the hands of Europe in the Ryder Cup, it’s looking like the key story won’t be Jim Furyk’s debatable failures as captain or the winless contributions of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. No, the big story is going to be why Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed weren’t paired together.
Settle in, this is some serious he said-he said-he said. (And also she-said.)
Being nice until it’s time to not be nice
Reed and Spieth made for a potent pairing at the 2014 and 2016 Ryder Cups, going a combined 4-1-2 and rallying the crowds with their combination of bravado and skill. So it was more than a little surprising, even given the recent struggles of both players, to see them kept apart for the entirety of the weekend. Spieth paired with Justin Thomas and went 3-1 in team play, while Reed and Woods went 0-2.
When questioned about the reasons behind the split, Spieth offered up a bland “We were totally involved in every decision that was made,” Spieth said. “Jim allowed it to be a player-friendly environment.”
Well, not for every player, apparently. In an interview after the press conference with the New York Times’ Karen Crouse, Reed unloaded on Spieth and Furyk, saying the selection process was a “buddy system” that recognized certain players’ inputs more than others. He claimed he was totally blindsided by Furyk’s decision to split up the pair. (Reed’s wife also criticized the decision on Twitter, pointing the finger straight at Spieth.)
“The issue’s obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,” Reed said. “I don’t have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don’t care if I like the person I’m paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success. He and I know how to make each other better. We know how to get the job done.”
Reed took issue with Furyk’s decision-making, noting “For somebody as successful in the Ryder Cup as I am, I don’t think it’s smart to sit me twice.” And then he delivered the money quote, saying that when asked about the split, “I was looking at [Spieth] like I was about to light the room up like Phil in ’14,” a reference to the infamous Gleneagles press conference in which Mickelson torched captain Tom Watson with Watson sitting right there.
Now that would have been a Ryder Cup scene for the ages.
What does this mean for the future?
It’s clear Reed’s grievances aren’t going away, and it’s also clear he might have a point. How exactly were the pairings devised? How much input did Spieth have? How much did Reed’s clearly abrasive personality affect the process?
The Reed dilemma poses a significant problem for the future of U.S. Ryder Cup teams. Reed is absolutely good enough to make every team for the next decade, but what happens if no one wants to play with him? Reed’s obviously a generational talent, but there’s going to need to be some serious airing of grievances, both from others and from Reed himself, to clear the air before the next Ryder Cup.
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