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1. The Ryder Cup ended last week, but the fireworks were launched in the days following the Americans’ 17.5 to 10.5 loss to the Europeans. Patrick Reed ignited it, telling The New York Times that Jordan Spieth didn’t want to play with him and that “it wasn’t smart” for Captain Jim Furyk to sit Reed twice. Spieth was paired with Justin Thomas and went 3-1, while Reed went 0-2 paired with Tiger Woods. What do you think Reed was trying to accomplish by speaking so candidly to reporter Karen Crouse, and what will be the ramifications?
Josh Berhow, news editor (@Josh_Berhow): I’m not so sure he was trying to accomplish anything in particular. We know his history. And after this I believe he just doesn’t think, or care, about what he says or how it looks. He’s great for the sport — golf needs more guys who fly off script — but it’s becoming more and more clear he certainly doesn’t want to make more friends; and that’s fine. As for the fallout, short-term, we’ll hear lots of his teammates asked about it in the coming months, and Reed will be asked to double down as well, but it will be interesting to see what other players say. My guess is they side with Furyk and back his game plan as Reed becomes even more of a lone wolf on Tour. Long-term ramifications? Like I wrote here, he better hope he doesn’t need a captain’s pick in the future.
Jeff Ritter, digital development editor (@Jeff_Ritter): I don’t think Reed’s comments were part of some broad agenda. His team lost, his own play was substandard, and he was ticked off. So, he popped off to a reporter. The ramifications are where things become interesting. PGA Tour pros will do just about anything to avoid controversy, but Reed is one guy who seems to relish it. Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods may have to mend some fences within his team next year, or the disfunction could carry on to Whistling Straits.
Josh Sens, contributing writer (@Josh_Sens): It came off as a combination of two things: a guy venting his frustrations while trying to find an explanation for his own subpar play. Natural reactions. There’s something refreshing about the frankness. But it also violates the team room code and I think we’re already seeing the consequences in the further hardening of Reed’s surely loner image. In the longer term, Captain America likely won’t top the list of America captain’s picks, should he ever need one.
Joe Passov, courses and travel editor (@JoePassov): I’m mystified why Reed said anything at all. Even with his legendary lone-wolf persona (his nickname on Tour is “Table for 1″), he has to know that he still has to be paired with these guys, both in regular events and in team competitions. Why take those gripes public? There are plenty of player vs. player issues out there that are kept very quiet — which is where this one should have stayed.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Not smart. Then again, complaining about your seats at Fenway is not smart, either. I think Jeff nailed it: Karen Crouse in The Times caught a bit of raw emotion there, and there was nothing calculated about it. It won’t serve him well one week a year, and will serve him well every other time he plays.
2. Explaining why they weren’t paired together (after boasting a 4-1-2 career Ryder Cup record), 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.” Do you agree with Reed’s logic?
Berhow: I feel like that logic, and in this case that pairing, will ultimately fail if two people aren’t on the same page. It’s not a formula for sustained success. On paper, the Spieth-Thomas pairing made sense. Those guys have a genuine chemistry. The Woods-Reed pairing wasn’t bad, either. Here I thought Patrick would bend over backwards to play with his idol. Instead he seemed rattled by the pressure of playing alongside him. And as a guy who doesn’t get as much (positive) publicity as he thinks he’s due, I think Reed was a little jealous of Spieth’s success with Thomas.
Ritter: Spieth-Reed was a great pairing and Woods-Reed could’ve been, too, but neither guy played his best in France. Reed was especially off his game. The pairings that have that chemistry — whether through friendship, competitive fire or just two golf games that mesh well — work the best in team events. Reed may not have many close friends on Tour, but he and Spieth are fiery and they brought out the best in each other. I’m still baffled he didn’t play better with Tiger.
Sens: Spieth is the Ned Flanders of golf so if he really does have issues with Reed, Reed must really be unlikeable. But yeah. Sure. I get Reed’s logic. It works for him. There’s no rule that says things need to be nicey-nice. But a partnership does need to work both ways. The same thinking might not work for everyone.
Passov: Dig back through Ryder Cup history and you’ll find more than one example of teammates feuding, or captain and player feuding, memorably Captain Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer in 1967, when Hogan threatened to sit Palmer — and did, on the morning of the second day. But logic dictates that having a positive relationship with your partner will produce better results, so I’m going to question Reed’s thinking here.
Bamberger: See: New York Yankees, under Billy Martin. I think Reed is right.
3. But Reedgate wasn’t the only issue that popped up after the Ryder Cup finished. Reports surfaced, and many of them were confirmed by other media outlets, that Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka were involved in a heated exchange in the European team room on Sunday night and had to be separated. (Koepka denied any of this took place.) So, if you are keeping track at home, that’s Phil Mickelson at Gleneagles in 2014 and then Reed and DJ/Koepka making headlines this year. Why is the U.S. so prone to outside-the-ropes drama?
Berhow: Because we need scapegoats. There can’t just be a loss but there has to be a reason for a loss. I would pay good money to read the European team’s WhatsApp messages the past week.
Ritter: True, scapegoating is a cottage industry in America, but have there been any near-brawls between European teammates after a loss? Captain-shaming works both ways, as I remember Faldo took some heat after captaining a losing side, but overall it sure looks like the U.S. lacks the togetherness of their European rivals. Losing only makes it more apparent.
Sens: They’re proud players who’ve been getting mostly whooped in a pressure-packed event that they’ve been told over and over they should be winning. That’ll cause some friction. But there’s also probably something to the generalization of the European team spirit being stronger than that of the Americans. It’s easy to talk big about team spirit but ours is a culture that celebrates individualism, and the modern Tour pro is as clear an emblem of that as any. The whole go-it-alone thing makes for some good Western movies and romanticized stump speeches, but there are consequences when everyone’s always looking out for number one.
Passov: When you lose, and lose unexpectedly, and lose badly, things can often turn ugly, as they did here.
Bamberger: Exactly. Happens in political races, in hyped movies that do no business, bad restaurant openings and a hundred other things. Losing leads to carping, and often to change, sometimes warranted, but sometimes not.
4. Speaking to reporters at the Safeway Open, Phil Mickelson called the rough at Ryder Cup host Le Golf National “almost unplayable.” “I’m 48,” he said. “I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that anymore — it’s a waste of my time. I’m going to play courses that are playable and that I can play aggressive, attacking, make a lot of birdies, style of golf I like to play.” Any issues with Mickelson (who went 0-2 at the Ryder Cup) lobbying for a captain’s pick when surely he would have known in advance that Le Golf National would not suit his eye?
Berhow: Only slightly, because Mickelson was never going to give up a spot because he didn’t think he would hit many fairways. You have to be confident. He could have went on a heater and torched that course. He didn’t. Oh well. (Sorry, Xander, Kevin, Kyle and Co.)
Ritter: Not really. Phil loves the team events and of course he wants to be on the squad. Once it was clear he wasn’t going to contribute much, he sat a full day. He actually played well enough in singles to have beaten a few of the Europeans, but Molinari was just unbreakable.
Sens: No gnarly rough for Phil? Guess he’s given up on the U.S. Open.
Passov: C’mon, Phil. You don’t mean that. Lefty may be most infamous for his wayward tee shots at any time and place, but he’s been in the top two six times at the U.S. Open. He’s completely capable of playing well and contending at tough, narrow tracks. He didn’t play well in France.
Bamberger: More venting from the losing side. I think we’ll see at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June, and I imagine he’ll be playing some shots out of the rough. Maybe it would have been better had he shot 73 on that Monday in Boston instead of 63. But he was never going to do ANYTHING that would diminish his chances of being on that team. That would be un-American. Or not Phil, anyway.
5. The woman hit by a Brooks Koepka drive at the Ryder Cup says doctors told her she’s lost sight in her right eye and she’s now considering legal action against Ryder Cup organizers. Less than a week later another woman was hit in the head by a Tyrrell Hatton drive at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Does golf need to do something more to ensure spectator safety?
Berhow: I guess the logical idea is to move ropes farther back, but eventually you are always going to get bigger misses. I still get nervous watching players punch out from the trees as hundreds of fans line both sides and provide a small window to thread the needle.
Sens: Those incidents were sad and scary and there’s no way to eliminate them entirely if you want to preserve the intimate fan experience that you get at a Tour event. But seems like it would make sense to push fans a little farther back. At events these days, you get huge throngs pushing right up to the edge of fairways and greens. As hard and far as players hit it these days, it’s an accident waiting to happen. Move fans a bit farther back, and the wait times between accidents would likely get longer. And you’d still be plenty close to the action.
Ritter: I feel terrible for both of those fans and at the same time agree that the intimacy between the spectator and the athlete is a big part of what makes attending a golf tournament so special. But because the Ryder Cup injury was both high-profile and gruesome, I expect there will be changes coming. Signs posted outside the ropes 280 yards out from all tees? Fans signing waivers upon entering the gates? Hard hats for all? Anything seems possible.
Passov: As other sports have evolved in terms of spectators and injuries, golf will, too. It will only take a few serious injuries and successful lawsuits to make that happen — sadly. Sure, you see the handshake and the signed glove gift when most spectators get hit, but it’s no joke when someone is seriously wounded. Watch for some new roped-off areas before too long.
Bamberger: The really scary accident-waiting-to-happen is the shank off a tee and the ball flying like a bullet through the air. I’m amazed that hasn’t happened, the way people get so close by the tee. Three-hundred yards off the tee it’s such awful bad luck for something to happen. It’s terrible, what happened. But watching golf is surely a largely safe activity.
6. Oh, and hopefully you enjoyed the offseason. The first event of the 2018-19 PGA Tour schedule finished on Sunday in Napa, Calif., as Kevin Tway took down Ryan Moore on the third playoff hole for his first Tour victory. What storyline are you most looking forward to watching play out in 2018-19?
Berhow: I love the new major schedule and am excited to see what Tiger can do in Year 2 of this comeback, but a new event I’m pumped to see is the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur just days before the Masters begin. And, of course, the inaugural 3M Open in the Twin Cities will be great too.
Sens: I could make up some stuff about a rising star or the depth of talent on Tour, but Tiger remains the most compelling story in the game.
Ritter: Tiger and the countdown to the 2019 Masters comes first. The new schedule, headlined by the Tour’s return to the great state of Michigan, is second. Everything else is third.
Passov: Tiger, chasing and breaking Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins. I’ll be watching!
Bamberger: All that, and Phil playing out of the rough at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.