Patrick Reed – Here We Go Again?

Australia Heats Up with Reed During Presidents Cup

The dust-up with the rules committee and Patrick Reed in the Hero World Challenge is spilling over into subsequent events. This week, it’s the Presidents Cup, played biannually since the mid ’90s. Not as well known as the Ryder Cup, in which the U.S. takes on Europe, the American opponent is now the rest of the world, minus Europe, a team of international players. Reed probably knows that if you’re going to offend someone and expect retaliation, it is best to be somewhere like Canada, Norway, or Tahiti. They might still tell you off, but ruthlessness isn’t really in their DNA.  An Australian gallery, however, can hound one to the gates of hell if you’ve broken the law.

That is precisely what happened at Royal Melbourne when Reed hit his first drive. Insults of every kind followed him for the rest of the day, beginning with a reminder that there are cameras in the bunkers. For those who have taken the month off from golf, Reed was assessed a two-stroke penalty for improving his lie in a bunker. He provided some interesting architecture of the sand with his practice swings. New rules say that we can now ground the club in the sand, but we still can’t move anything around. Reed claims it was a bad camera angle, and a lot of golf people responded with derision. Whether he cheated or not, some players and a lot of media outlets surely made it sound that way, with liberal use of the word, “caught.”

I don’t know if Reed cheated or not, but a history of integrity questions and lack of warm fuzzy bedside manner with the gallery has rubbed salt into the wound brought about by the situation. The conflict is a revival of he college years, in which Reed was dismissed from Georgia for unknown reasons. Transferring to Augusta State, he either didn’t socialize or socialized badly, reportedly submitted inauthentic lower scores, stole from a colleague, and got into student alcohol problems. At one point, a team meeting was held to discuss the matter, and on occasion, team members are said to have actually rooted for Reed’s opponent. That smarts.

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It all sounds bad, but at some point, we need to put the college stuff behind us, barring something profoundly criminal. In those years, few of us were social Einsteins, and it is common to shudder at the memory of one’s self as a glorified high school student. Last week, however, sticks in a lot of craws, and Australians are craning their necks waiting for a collision between Reed and favorite son Cameron Smith. The Aussie golfer seems to be carrying the “I hate cheaters flag” for this countrymen, and when the two “bumped” into each other on the course, fireworks were anticipated. Nothing has erupted yet from what was called a “love tap,” but Reed and Smith may play each other soon, and it could get ‘interesting.’

With the backlash from his prickly demeanor, Reed has often declared in effect, that he doesn’t need public love. In addition to all the good reasons to celebrate a win, there is always an element of rubbing someone’s face in it through success, a common phenomenon. True, the video looks bad, but I’m not ready to throw Reed to the wolves just yet. He did get the two-stroke penalty, the punishment prescribed by law. That should tone down further hostilities, but it has apparently not. Cheating in a PGA event would be stupid, as the camera coverage is almost surgical. The foot wedge days are over. Of course, with the looseness enjoyed by weekend golfers, many of us would have to add 30 or 40 strokes to our round by PGA standards.

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Still, I’m not ready to call Reed “Captain America,” either. That goes to a person with a little greater sense of etiquette, and doesn’t relate to Reed’s claim that he’s a top five player, or whether he wins ten Masters. Perhaps the powers that be keep track of long-term patterns in their players, and there may be a reckoning at some point – or, we just need to calm down, keep watching, and let the cameras roll.

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