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Tiger Woods put his faith in Patrick Reed, but Reed has yet to justify his pick

December 14, 2019

Before he left last week’s Hero World Challenge for the mega-trip to Australia, Tiger Woods was asked about the inevitable questions his team would face about Patrick Reed. He brushed them aside.

“Of course we’re going to be asked [about Reed], but when it comes right down to it, we’ll just get ready to play and play,” he said. “Whatever Patrick has put out there, he’s focused like he is in every Cup, he just goes out and gets his point. Next week will be no different.”

Woods clearly trusts Reed in team match play; he was happy to have him as a partner at last year’s Ryder Cup, although they’d go on to lose both matches together. Even after Reed went to the press with complaints about that Ryder Cup team and the way it was managed, Woods felt no qualms about selecting him with a captain’s pick for this year’s Presidents Cup team.

In the first session, Woods paired Reed with Webb Simpson, presumably a calming influence. The two never led in a match against C.T. Pan and Hideki Matsuyama and lost 1 down. But they were hardly alone; the U.S. team earned just a single point that session.

Woods paired Reed with Simpson again for the next day’s foursomes match. The enduring takeaway from that session was Reed making a birdie putt to stay 2 down and then snapping at a heckler, cupping his hand to his ear and miming a shoveling motion. It was a bizarre self-own and felt emblematic of the entire U.S. effort; just minutes later the Americans would be trailing in all five matches.

But while three other pairs rallied to earn a split in the session, Simpson and Reed never contended and lost 3 and 2.

It was curious, then, that Woods sent Reed and Simpson out again for the third session on Saturday morning. But if they felt the fire of expectations, it didn’t translate in their play; even in the best ball format, the two combined for just a single birdie in 15 holes (made by Simpson). That wouldn’t hold up at Royal Melbourne’s weekly Saturday morning game, never mind against other professionals, and the American pair lost 5 and 3.

“They just ran into some guys that played well and made crucial putts at certain times,” Woods said by way of explanation. “Today they just didn’t play well, and that happens.”

Passing judgment on team captains in golf is almost always unfair, but it almost always happens anyways; second-guessing is essentially baked into the competition. As a result, the failures of Simpson and Reed reflect negatively on their captain.

Big picture, the showing marks a negative trend for Reed in team competitions. PGA Tour’s Sean Martin pointed out that with former partner Jordan Spieth, Reed was 8-1-3 between the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Without Spieth, Reed’s record has slipped to — wait for it — 0-7-0. That’s a discouraging run, to say the least.

Reed boasts a 3-0-0 record in Ryder Cup singles (he’s 0-1-1 at the Presidents Cup) so it would hardly be surprising if he shows up for Sunday’s match. But this was a week where he was a lightning rod for attention and a distraction for the U.S. team for all the wrong reasons. To make matters worse, not long after the first foursomes match started on Saturday afternoon, Steve Sands came onto the Golf Channel broadcast and reported that “a little bit of an altercation” took place between a fan and Reed’s caddie, Kessler Karain, after their match. “It got a little out of control there after the match this morning,” Sands said. “That’s when the altercation took place. The Tour is aware of it.”

On Saturday afternoon, Woods sat himself for the second consecutive match. He finally benched Simpson and Reed, too. Down 9-5, there was something helpless about the idea of three guys who’d had such a big hand in the U.S. team’s chances sitting on the sidelines, watching the action play out. They’ll hope the competition is still close enough by the time they tee it up in Sunday singles.

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