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QUICK TAKE: Losing Turns Ugly For U.S. Ryder Cup Team

Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka ended their Ryder Cup week with a confrontation in the Europe team room. (Photo: Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Maybe Jordan Spieth versus Patrick Reed on Thanksgiving weekend would be more interesting than the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson match.

And, according to various confirmed reports, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka already have had their head-to-head battle Sunday night in the European team room at the Ryder Cup, where they had to be separated from each other after the Americans’ lopsided loss at Le Golf National.

Acrimony and second-guessing have become familiar themes through the years following American Ryder Cup losses. Just when it seemed that was all part of the past, swept away by the task force and a resounding victory two years ago at Hazeltine National, the noise has returned in the wake of a sixth consecutive American loss on foreign soil.

Frustration is an inevitable byproduct of losing, especially in the Ryder Cup, which is built on emotion. Pride is part of the equation – both from a team standpoint and a personal perspective.

When Reed questioned captain Jim Furyk’s decision to sit him for two of the five sessions, citing his Ryder Cup record as a reason he should have played, he did more than question his captain. Reed made it personal.

He suggested that Jordan Spieth, with whom Reed had partnered successfully in past Ryder and Presidents cups, didn’t want to play with him and cast himself as an outsider in a team built around a close clique.

Reed made his comments to The New York Times after the U.S. team’s post-Ryder Cup press conference. The final question of that session was to both Spieth and Reed, who were asked if they were surprised they were not paired together in Paris.

Spieth answered, saying the players were involved in every decision, then Furyk broke in explaining why he did it.

Reed never got a chance to answer the question in a public forum. Would he have said the same thing with the team sitting there? We’ll never know but he made his feelings clear later.

It’s no secret Reed isn’t the most popular player on the PGA Tour. He tends to keep to himself and this year he’s found a way, despite winning the Masters, to do little things that reflect poorly on him. Such as making an issue of free tickets he got to a Boston Red Sox baseball game from the PGA Tour, and telling a rules official he would get a different ruling if his name were Spieth.

Now this.

It’s not a popularity contest in the team room. If you can play – and Reed was brilliant in his first two Ryder Cups – that’s what matters. If Reed felt like an outsider before, he didn’t help himself with his post-match comments.

Furyk has taken criticism for breaking up the Spieth-Reed pairing but his reasoning was solid: Rather than one powerhouse team, create two with Spieth-Justin Thomas and Woods-Reed.

Spieth and Thomas went 3-1 together so it’s not like it didn’t work. As for who played better when Woods and Reed were paired in two four-ball losses, that was easy to see.

Players can be excused for poor play. It happens. It’s the nature of the game. It comes and goes.

The Europeans outplayed the U.S. and reminded everyone that the Ryder Cup means more to them. That’s not a knock on the Americans but a tribute to the Europeans, who take the Ryder Cup to heart like nothing else.

Losing stings but it doesn’t have to be ugly.

Unless you make it that way.


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