Of Tiger Woods’s four captain picks for the Presidents Cup, he made three no brainers and chose Patrick Reed.
Woods could have justified the selection of the hot hand, Kevin Na, who has won twice in his past 10 starts, including at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October. He could’ve picked Rickie Fowler and few would have batted an eye. He could have ignored the standings and current form and gone for veteran leadership and taken Phil Mickelson or went with his gut and Jordan Spieth. (After his 2015 season, could anyone imagine a scenario where a healthy Spieth wouldn’t be on an American team for at least the next decade?)
But Woods made the right call in taking the 29-year-old Reed to round out his team going to Australia this December, despite the fact that, as the saying goes, his baggage doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment.
“Definitely was fired up to get the phone call from Tiger saying that I was a pick and that he can’t wait for me to be a part of the team and that I’d bring a lot to the team,” Reed said in a conference call with media on Tuesday night. “That means a lot, especially coming from one of the greatest golfers ever to live on this planet. For him to trust in me and the team to trust in me means a lot because it means that I’ve worked hard and that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and that’s try to go out and play the best golf I can.”
Woods could have served as judge and jury and sentenced Reed to a one-year banishment from Team USA for “conduct unbecoming,” to borrow the PGA Tour’s all-encompassing pet phrase. What’s said in the locker room, stays in the locker room. Reed violated this basic rule when he threw Jim Furyk, the 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, under the bus and aired the team’s dirty laundry publicly following the team’s defeat at Le Golf National in France. Forget the staged bro-hug when Reed and Spieth were paired together for the first time this season at the Farmers Insurance Open – the Presidents Cup selection was the ultimate determinant of how severe the consequences of Reed’s actions would be (apparently, at worst, he was given double-secret probation).
No one has a longer memory than Woods – see Stephen Ames, 10 and 9 – but his selection of Reed proves that he’s willing to let bygones be bygones for the good of the future of Team USA.
“That was all put to bed,” Reed said. “We all talked about it. We’ve all moved on, and we’re all just really getting excited for this year and to focus on going out and doing what we’re supposed to do.”
If the U.S. is going to regain the Ryder Cup in 2020, it is going to need the fiery Reed, who Tiger said “bleeds red, white and blue.” Where better for Reed to reestablish his aura as a big-game killer (see, Rory McIlroy, Hazeltine, 2016) than at the Ryder Cup Lite? While Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar go around kissing babies in Instagram posts and hosting junior clinics to restore their public image, Reed seems if not to revel in his bad-boy image to at least accept “it is what it is” and the 2019 Presidents Cup has a chance to be his personal Captain America redemption tour Down Under.
“For some reason I love to go in and basically feel like my back is up against the wall and go out and try to prove something every week I play,” he said. “It’s just been something that’s always been a part of me.”
Woods has always been a bit of a lone wolf, too, and he’s said before that he sees some of himself in Reed, the 2018 Masters champion who draped the green jacket on his back this April. While trying to describe what will make Woods a good captain at the Presidents Cup, Reed pointed out that Tiger has taken the time to understand the personalities of each player “and knowing what makes them tick.”
Woods knows that Reed is going to be a fixture on the U.S. side for many years to come and he needs to be brought back into the inner circle, for better or worse. Reed is a match-play maven. He is the U.S. version of Ian Poulter. Or maybe an even better comparison is to say he is the U.S. team’s Colonel Nathan Jessup in “A Few Good Men:”
“My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins matches. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall.”
Yes, we do, and so does Tiger. Do we not want a guy on the team that when asked who he’d like to play in the Sunday singles answers, “Whoever is playing best on their team. I’ve always just loved to go up against the best guy, so whoever is playing the best I’d love to take him on on Sunday.”
Captain America is out to remove the tarnish of going 1-3 in the last Ryder Cup (though he’s a little too quick to point out that he’s still undefeated in singles. Note to Patrick: the team lost; that’s all that matters.) Does Reed feel any extra pressure to live up to his reputation?
“I don’t. You know, everyone has bad years no matter what,” Reed said.
His back is firmly against the wall just the way Reed likes it. America won’t stand for another bad year. Let the redemption tour begin.