ASH England (Reuters) - There was no sign of the hype and hullabaloo of the Ryder Cup when American Patrick Reed returned to Britain for the opening day of the Volvo World Match Play Championship on Wednesday.
The rookie entertained the huge crowds at Gleneagles last month with his excitable demeanor but the contrast in atmosphere could not have been more stark when he took on round-robin group rival Jonas Blixt of Sweden at the London Club.
You could have heard a pin drop on the sopping wet hills of the Kent countryside with sometimes as few as 20 people looking on as the two players squelched their way from hole to hole.
Reed, 24, who was full of noisy, fist-pumping exhortations at the Ryder Cup, said on the eve of the World Match Play that he was ready to wind up the fans again but he was as quiet as a church mouse as he slipped to a 2 & 1 defeat against Blixt.
The course has been saturated by a deluge of rain this week and it was so bad on the third fairway that Reed had to drop his ball 10 feet from where it landed in order to get sufficient relief.
“We had to find a dry spot somewhere,” referee Jan Visser told Reuters with a smile.
Reed upset some people with his antics at Gleneagles but Visser said he never overstepped the mark.
“We need characters in the game and I don’t think he did anything untoward at the Ryder Cup,” the Dutchman added.
Reed’s mischievous approach was one of the highlights of the Ryder Cup and his playing contribution is often overlooked. He was the highest points scorer for the defeated Americans, taking 3 1/2 points from his four matches.
One local fan grinned from ear to ear on Wednesday when he had the chance to tell Reed what he thought of his performance at Gleneagles.
“You were awesome at the Ryder Cup, simply awesome,” said the fan before the American nodded his approval from the other side of the ropes.
Reed and Blixt, who feature in the same four-man group as Europe’s Ryder Cup hero Jamie Donaldson and 2006 World Match Play champion Paul Casey, were all square over the opening five holes and the turning point came at the par-five sixth.
The 30-year-old Swede, who tied for second at the U.S. Masters in April, hooked a wild second shot deep into the trees.
After a fruitless five-minute search for his ball he trudged back up the fairway to play his fourth stroke from 240 yards and this time found the green before sinking an unlikely 40-foot putt to save his par.
Reed, no doubt shocked at his opponent’s escape act, missed from three feet for his par and the Swede moved ahead at the very next hole when he struck a majestic approach from the right rough to six feet and rolled in his birdie attempt.
“It was one of those days where both of us played pretty solid but at the end of the day I didn’t really make anything,” said the American.
“I missed a short one on six and it seemed like that was the story of the day, I was just missing putts left and right. To win these matches, especially at this level, you have to make putts and unfortunately I didn’t do that.”
Reed will have a chance to put things right on Thursday when he meets Casey, a 2 & 1 winner over Donaldson on the opening day.
Editing by Neville Dalton