The curious case of Watson sitting Spieth and Reed
By Stephanie Wei under Ryder Cup

Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed impressed the golfing world on Friday morning, giving Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher a proper whupping and beating the Europeans 5&4 in the first fourball match.

The pair of American Ryder Cup rookies played brilliantly together, doing a beautiful job of dovetailing off each other. They took turns as to when it was their time to shine, trading birdies, with a total of six — three each in the first 11 holes.

“Most of our birdies were on different holes,” said Spieth. “But at the same time, on holes where we made birdie, the other was in good position, anyway. We just hit a lot of greens together, so that’s going to look that way. One putt may miss, the other may go in, but when you get a lot of looks from 20 feet and in, especially with a guy who putts as well as Patrick does, we’re going to end up filling it up.

“Hopefully we get out tomorrow morning with the same idea. I mean, we’ve got all the confidence in the world, so we just need to, again, the key to that fourball format is getting two balls on the green in regulation.”

Spieth said yesterday that he felt it would be a huge boost for the Americans as well as a massive downer for the Europeans, lowering their team morale, if he and Reed went out and beat Poulter, the Ryder Cup giant, and Gallacher, the local favorite. And that’s exactly what they did.

“I think there’s definitely a psychological blow,” said Spieth. “I mean, it was very, very quiet out there compared to what I think Patrick and I expected in the first round of a Ryder Cup over here, and that’s the goal. That’s our team goal is just go out there and play and kind of listen to it like it’s just Sunday with your buddies. That’s kind of what it felt like.”

They certainly silenced the European fans watching their match, and putting America on the board may have helped turn the momentum around for the USA after being down early in the other matches.

It was quite perplexing when the afternoon foursome pairings and matches were announced and Spieth and Reed weren’t on the board.

American Captain Tom Watson even disclosed that the rookie duo was not pleased, to say the least.

“I’m so proud of them,” said Watson in a TV interview. “They were very upset with me for not playing them this afternoon. “I said, ‘I know you’re going to be mad at me, but you’ll be playing tomorrow for sure.'”

While I’m sure Watson had his reasons, it only seemed logical to put out a pair of young guns with momentum and confidence. Reed thought with the way they were playing, their form set them up perfectly for the foursomes format.

“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,” said Reed. “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.”

It was also a shock for the duo, as well, especially after they were told morning play would determine at least two of the pairings. Spieth found out they were sitting out right after their match and asked Watson whether he could go watch the other matches or if he needed to go and get ready for the afternoon. He was caught off guard with the answer.

“I 100% assumed we were going back out, and because what Captain Tom said was, ‘We’ll have our other two afternoon pairings based on how the mornings going,.’ said Spieth.

“We win 5&4 and figure we’re going to play alternate shot. So I went and asked, ‘Should we go back and get ready, we’re wondering if we’re going off.’ He said, ‘We’re going to sit you guys. It was a decision we made. It was a tough call, coming down to you guys, and Jimmy, Rickie, and Phil and Keegan, but we’re going rest you guys today.’

“So, hopefully we’ll play both matches tomorrow.”

Though they still didn’t seem thrilled, Reed and Spieth understood that at the end of the day, it was Watson’s call.

“Captain Watson, he picks pairings for a reason,” said Reed. “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.”

Update: Just a thought — Watson didn’t want to sit Keegan and Phil today because that would have meant Phil, the 44-year-old arthritic, would have had to play twice Saturday, which wouldn’t have bode well heading into Sunday singles. Plus, Jimmy and Rickie are playing well together and the only American tandem leading a match at the moment.