Reed, McIlroy serve up sensational duel


The hugely anticipated showdown between Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy was living up to its billing as the opening singles match of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine provided rich entertainment.

Europe, the winners of the last three editions of the biennial event, trailed 9.5 - 6.5 when play began on Sunday and were hoping to pull off a comeback akin to the one they managed from 10-6 down at Medinah four years ago.

Darren Clarke's men could take encouragement from several flashes of blue on the scoreboard early on, Justin Rose, Rafael Cabrera Bello and Andy Sullivan among those to open up slender leads.

Yet most of the attention centred on a remarkable contest between Reed and McIlroy, which was all-square through nine holes following sensational play from both men.

Reed - so impressive this week - set the tone by draining a lengthy par-saver to earn a half at the first, but the American was behind when his rival birdied the third.

What followed was truly spectacular, Reed initially pulling level with a 10-footer for eagle at the driveable par-four fifth.

The next three holes were birdied by both men and featured increasingly animated celebrations. Reed bowed in McIlroy's direction after matching the Northern Irishman at the sixth, but the roles were reversed at the seventh, McIlroy raising a finger to his lips.

Europe's talisman then went ballistic after holing a monster putt at the eighth, but Reed again responded, prompting a smile from McIlroy and a respectful fist bump between the duo as they left the green.

Jordan Spieth, JB Holmes and Phil Mickelson were all one up for the US in their respective matches, but it was too early for either side to have claimed significant momentum.

Every member of the USA team has already won a match. That last happened in 1975, when the late Arnold Palmer - whose death last weekend prompted a flood of tributes - served as captain.