THEY are the hip young gunslingers surprisingly denied the chance to go again on Friday by Tom Watson. But Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed opted not to sulk, as some predicted might happen.
“We are doing what Tom tells us to do and we trust what he says,” said Spieth yesterday, shortly after he and Reed, combined age 45, had won their second match in two days, beating Martin Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn 5 and 3 in the morning fourballs.
It is surprising that the 21-year-old Spieth let slip a “Tom” rather than “Mr Watson”. The comment still spoke of the gap in years between a pair dubbed the “Super Rookies” and the US skipper, who it is easy to cast as a slightly strict paternal – actually, more grandfatherly – influence. Indeed, it’s tempting to imagine Watson wagging his finger at Spieth and Reed on Friday. “I know what’s good for you!” he could well have insisted when his decision to bench them was met by sullen looks from his young charges.
There was no chance Watson would fail to turn to them yesterday afternoon. “If you guys are not playing this afternoon, then I am going home!” a voice cried out to Reed and Spieth as they strode down the fairway at the 15th hole, which is as far as their match with Bjorn and Kaymer got. Victory was wrapped up with three holes to spare.
That this voice was an American one illustrated the depth of feeling felt on this particular issue. Going home would have meant a trip back across the Atlantic. Fortunately for the gentleman in question, he was spared having to take such extreme measures by Watson’s decision to keep the pair together in the afternoon foursomes.
Not only did the US skipper ask them to give their clubs a wipe and head out once more, it turned out he had pitched them into direct competition with Justin Rose, the player whose own form earlier in the day left Gleneagles in a swoon. While not proving quite as spectacular, Spieth was similarly effective in the morning fourballs. And like Henrik Stenson, Rose’s compadre, Reed provided at times inspirational support.
With the precocity of youth, the American pair tossed off the disappointment of Friday afternoon’s snub by Watson to post another emphatic victory against Kaymer and the toiling Bjorn. There were some wobbles. After they slipped two holes behind within the first three holes, it was suggested by some to be proof that they were ticked off by their treatment from Watson. There was some evidence on which to base this theory. Reed’s reaction to learning they had been rested on Friday afternoon did not indicate he was in full agreement.
“I can’t lie, I wanted to play,” he said. Spieth, meanwhile, had said he “100 per cent expected to play”. So when they started so sluggishly yesterday morning, it was not hard to wonder what was going on with them. Had the pair been up all night muttering conspiratorially about the legendary captain? Had Gleneagles Hotel echoed to the sound of slammed doors and squeals of, “He just doesn’t understand me”?
There were no teenage tantrums yesterday. Instead, there was only a serene dismantling of Bjorn and Kaymer. And that was just for starters. Indeed, it was the 43-year-old Bjorn who looked to be in a funk. His day did not get any better when, shortly after the 15th hole denouement, he learned that his beloved Liverpool had surrendered the lead against Everton in the last minute of yesterday’s Merseyside derby.
Hands thrust deep into pockets, Bjorn’s heavily bearded face was tripping him as he struggled to find any kind of form with his putter. It was no surprise when Europe captain Paul McGinley chose not to call on his services yesterday afternoon. Kaymer, though, was asked to put aside his earlier disappointment and team up with Rose, though it was surely deflating to learn that – yes, you guessed it – he was up against those pesky kids from Texas again.
Again it seemed as though their inexperience was catching up with Spieth and Reed as they trailed at the third hole by one. But again their enthusiasm for the fray was apparent. The noise of a crowd beginning to be frustrated by their doggedness was not unsettling them. It seemed to do the opposite.
One up with a hole to play against Rose and Kaymer, the pair were denied what would have been a remarkable third successive win when Rose sunk a seven foot putt at the last to tie the match. “Sloppy,” said Reed later, when asked for his thoughts on only halving a contest they had led for ten of the 18 holes. The United States may well have to rely on them again in the singles today. “We might want to alternate each other’s shots,” grinned Spieth last night.
At 24, Reed, from San Antonio, is the elder partner by four years. Spieth, who grew up in Dallas, is also from the Lone Star State. Together they make a superb double-act, creating history on Friday by becoming the youngest pairing since 1971 to win a Ryder Cup match, hence the coining of the term “Super rookies”.
Perhaps there had been some method in what some viewed as the madness of Tom Watson on Friday. They had gone to bed on Friday still high on the adrenaline of a first morning victory. A defeat in the afternoon’s foursomes could have damaged them ahead of yesterday. Watson’s twinkling eyes as he greeted the pair following their morning win suggested the old cove knew what he was doing.
Nothing was going to deflect Reed and Spieth from their purpose. They turned the match around by the ninth hole, when they managed to go one up after a birdie putt by Spieth. “It’s your day Jordan!” came a cry from the crowd.
American supporters were being drawn to this pair in the morning as news spread that they were on fire again. By the time Spieth and Reed were walking down the fairway at the 14th hole, a familiar figure, walking with that recognisable hirple, the one so redolent of that Open heartache at Turnberry five years ago, had caught up with them.
“You guys into playing this afternoon?” Watson asked. A birdie from Reed that put them four holes up, and then another at the next hole from Spieth sealing another win, was the most eloquent answer of all.