-- CHASKA, Minn. -- Tiger Woods made a beeline for an American golfer near the 18th green, the one golfer who always had the unmitigated gall to wear Tiger's shade of win-or-else red on Sundays. Patrick Reed had a swing doctor in his youth, Peter Murphy, who worked with Hank Haney when the coach was working with Woods on Haney's ranch.
Reed wanted to be Tiger when he grew up. Didn't every kid with a driver or a wedge in his hands? But Reed didn't just want to beat opponents as consistently as Woods did. He wanted to punish people, and scare them, just like Tiger did on muscle memory in his prime.
"Patrick took a lot away from Tiger's demeanor, and his intimidation," Murphy would say, "the way Tiger had an air about him. ...He wanted to show people that he wouldn't back down."
Back down? Reed was no more likely to back down, or lay up, than the late, great Arnold Palmer. As a child prodigy in Texas, Reed was willing to put himself out there and risk a nine-car crash on the final hole in relentless pursuit of victory.
And this is why Woods was heading right for him Sunday after Reed played in the Ryder Cup like Tiger did in only his wildest imagination. Woods doesn't respect opponents who shy away from full-contact engagement and the kind of psychological warfare that separates the winners from the losers, and the men from the boys.
As an American vice captain, Woods loved it when Reed told him he'd better not bench him for any of the four team sessions with the Europeans. As a high-profile -- if temporary -- witness of Reed's epic battle with Rory McIlroy, Woods loved it when the Americans' best player traded punches with the Irish heavyweight in a prizefight best described as Ali-Frazier without the blood.
So Woods and Reed sank into each others' arms for the most meaningful embrace following the United States' 17-11 victory over a European team that hadn't lost the Ryder Cup since 2008. They held each other tight while Reed asked Woods why in the world he'd exited his singles match long before it was over.
"Where were you?" Reed said. "You left me."
"You had it handled," Tiger shrieked. "No, you had McIlroy handled."
"You left me," Reeds responded through a delirious smile, "and all of a sudden I made bogeys."
Yes, Reed made three bogeys from the ninth hole forward. But that did nothing to diminish the staggering golf he and McIlroy played over the first eight holes, when the leadoff singles match of the day turned into Turnberry, 1977, the legendary duel in the sun between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
They shared in the damnedest sequence on Hazeltine's eighth green, with their match all square after Reed had gone eagle-birdie-birdie to McIlroy's birdie-birdie-birdie. The Irishman whacked a putt that his opponent estimated traveled 70 or more feet, and when it dropped, McIlroy lost his mind in another of his manic jigs and dramatically cupped his ear with his hand while mouthing the words, "I can't hear you."
On cue, Reed relished the challenge this moment presented 25 feet from pay dirt. "When a guy does something like that," he said, "you have to be mentally tough enough to go make a putt."
Reed sank his, and the crowd went nuts as the American pumped his fists in his now-familiar Jimmy Connors-on-steroids way. Reed then wagged his finger at an appreciative McIlroy. These two Ryder Cup titans bumped fists and wrapped their arms around each others' backs as they headed to the next tee.
McIlroy was never the same player after that. Drained from his MMA matches with the Hazeltine crowds all weekend, his reactions to their jeering bordering on the absurd, McIlroy bogeyed the ninth and played his final 10 holes in 2 over. He couldn't get up and down out of a bunker at No. 12, giving Reed his first lead, and he missed a short par putt on the 13th. Reed conceded a short but slippery downhiller at the 15th that seemed like an overly generous gift to McIlroy, then responded with a winning birdie on the next hole.
"I ran out of steam," McIlroy conceded.
His only birdie on the back nine came at the 18th, and that was a putt he never got to take. Up one, Reed hit his approach shot almost as tight as his opponent's, stalked his line to the hole, and then drained the bird that killed off McIlroy and effectively ended Europe's long-shot bid for an upset. "We're all gutted," said the losing captain, Darren Clarke.
A McIlroy victory could've altered the dynamics of this entire day. Rory wanted Reed, and Reed wanted him, and in the end the 26-year-old Texan was left with a 6-1-2 record in two Ryder Cups, and with a reputation as one of the most ferocious competitors American golf has ever seen.
"Patrick has a lot of built-up emotion," said his wife Justine, "and this is the time that he can really let it out and just have fun. The Ryder Cup is fun for him. He loves to compete. This is when he can really let out his personality and character."
Sunday morning, Justine said her husband got up earlier than usual. "As I woke up," she recalled, "Patrick was walking out the door. He just said, 'I've got to go do my job.'"
Reed did the kind of fire-breathing, team-carrying job the Ian Poulters and Colin Montgomeries used to do for the Europeans. The U.S. has been waiting forever for a player with this kind of passion, this kind of fearless approach to a tee-to-green representation of his country.
It's funny how this player turned out to be Reed, a me-centric kid thrown off the University of Georgia team for boorish behavior (some of it fueled by alcohol), suspended by his Augusta State coach for more boorish behavior, and universally loathed by the same Augusta State teammates he would lead to back-to-back NCAA titles.
His college coach at Augusta State, Josh Gregory, would say his goal was to convince his players they were better than they really were, a pitch he never made to Reed. "Patrick," Gregory said, "already thought he was twice as good as he really was."
Reed wasn't the most popular player in PGA Tour locker rooms even before his 2014 claim that he stood among the world's top five players. He's estranged from his family (neither side talks about the dividing issues, for the record), and in some ways he might resemble the pudgy, obnoxious, hot dog-scarfing American depicted by Danny Willett's brother Peter in an article that did Danny and the Euros no favors.
No, in the context of on-course decorum, Patrick Reed might not have been Arnold Palmer's cup of iced tea. But on a day of redemption for Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson, who was good for 10 birdies in his halved match with Sergio Garcia, Reed was the difference between winning and misery.
"Any time I feel like I can go one-on-one against somebody," Reed said, "it's something I love to do."
He traded theatric bows and fist pumps and finger-to-lips shushes with McIlroy, who had never lost in Ryder Cup singles, and exorcised a legion of red, white and blue demons. The Hazeltine fans chanted his name, and the ultimate match-play lion -- a guy without a single top-10 finish in the majors -- roared in delight.
"It's a dream come true," Reed said.
Make no mistake: Patrick Reed will never be Tiger Woods, not by five country miles. But Reed has already become the Tiger Woods of the Ryder Cup, and that's really bad news for the international golfers who'd grown accustomed to sinking the Americans on both sides of the pond.