RYDER CUP GOLF: USA strike key blow as Rory McIlroy loses highly-charged top clash to Patrick Reed

Europe's Rory McIlroy after losing his round during the singles matches on day three of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club
Europe's Rory McIlroy after losing his round during the singles matches on day three of the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club
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Rory McIlroy suffered his first singles defeat in the Ryder Cup as the United States struck a major psychological blow in their bid to win the trophy for the first time since 2008.

Europe needed to overturn a three-point deficit in Sunday’s 12 singles matches at a hostile Hazeltine to claim an unprecedented fourth straight win in the biennial contest.

Open champion Henrik Stenson gave Darren Clarke’s side the ideal start with a 3&2 win over Jordan Spieth in match two, but McIlroy then lost a highly-charged contest with Patrick Reed on the 18th.

That took the home side to within four points of victory, with Davis Love’s side leading in each of the last five matches on the course.

With Clarke sending his best players out at the top of the singles order and Love doing likewise, the fired-up duo of McIlroy and Reed got things off to an electrifying start.

McIlroy drew first blood with a birdie on the third and also birdied the fifth, but saw Reed drive the green on the short par four and hole from seven feet to eagle and get back to all square.

Another birdie on the sixth elicited the first animated celebration from McIlroy, only for Reed to also birdie and then mimic McIlroy’s bow to the crowd which had followed his winning eagle on the 16th in Friday’s fourballs.

Reed also appeared to wag his finger in McIlroy’s direction as the four-time major winner walked away, the world number three responding on the next by putting a finger to his lips to silence the fans after matching Reed’s birdie.

McIlroy celebrated with even greater relish after holing from 50 feet for a remarkable birdie on the eighth, cupping his hands behind his ears and roaring “I can’t hear you” at the packed grandstands.

Reed responded with a birdie of his own from 15 feet and again wagged his finger at McIlroy, but the pair then exchanged a fist-bump and warm smiles as they amazingly headed to the ninth tee all square and five under par.

Surprisingly both players bogeyed the ninth after finding sand off the tee and when McIlroy was unable to save par from another bunker on the 12th, Reed took the lead for the first time.

Reed, who was unbeaten and the top US points scorer on his debut at Gleneagles in 2014, birdied the 16th to double his lead and although he made a mess of the 17th, a birdie on the last was a fitting way to seal victory.