Vousden on Patrick Reed

Thought of the Day
Your problem isn’t the problem. Your reaction is the problem

Oh dear, Patrick
Last month, in my predictions for the year, I wrote, tongue stuck firmly in cheek: ‘Patrick Reed will continue to be voted the most popular player among his fellow tour pros and fans; taking over the mantle held for many years by Vijay Singh.’ Just over four weeks into 2021 it looks to be a prescient statement for Reed is, once again, at the centre of a rules controversy that will endear him to no-one.

The facts are that in the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open, his approach shot to the 10th green missed left, bounced on a cart path and fell into deep, lush rough, from a height of three to four feet. No one, including a marshal fairly close by, apparently saw the ball bounce. When Reed arrived, he pushed his hand into the rough for several seconds before declaring that he thought the ball was embedded, after which he marked and lifted it, which he is allowed to do under rule 16.4. He called over a rules official who also inspected the area with his hand, and agreed there was an indentation, of the sort created by an embedded ball.

Under the new rules of golf Reed was allowed to drop within one club length, into a considerably more favourable position, from where he got up and down to make an impressive par four.

The questions start with: How can a ball falling into verdant deep grass, from a few feet, become embedded? It seems improbable. However, in the last round of the same event, Rory McIlroy’s ball bounced once in deep grass, to the right of the 18th, and fell from a similar height a few feet away, still in thick grass. It was also embedded. The difference is that Rory told his playing partner Rory Sabbatini that he thought it was embedded, giving him the opportunity to walk over and check. Sabbatini was happy to accept Rory’s word. The crucial distinction is that Patrick Reed did not make the same offer to his playing partners.

He is not obliged to, as defined by the rules, but it is such a long-held convention – much like telling fellow competitors you’re going to lift and clean if you’re playing under winter rules – that it’s regarded as so commonplace as to be a prescribed, mandatory action. The TV commentators were surprised, agreeing that: ‘You wouldn’t touch your ball in play, you wouldn’t lift it without saying: “I think I’ve got an embedded ball.”’

The further problem, of course, is that the supremely talented but brash American has form. At the end of 2019, in a waste bunker at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, during two practice swings, Reed’s club brushed away sand from behind his ball, improving the lie. He later suggested that the camera angle gave a false impression and, while accepting a penalty stroke, argued he had done nothing untoward. Brooks Koepka, among others, was not impressed and when asked if he thought Reed had cheated said: ‘Uh, yeah. I think, yeah, yeah. I mean, I don’t know what he was doing, building sand castles in the sand but, you know, you know where your club is.’

TV analyst Brandel Chamblee said: ‘To defend what Patrick Reed did is defending cheating,’ a remark for which he received a cease-and desist-letter from Reed’s lawyers, urging him not to repeat the allegation.

Controversy has clung to Patrick Reed like a bad smell, starting with his time in college. A measure of his unpopularity is that when Reed was to play Harris English at the 2011 NCCA match play final, Reed’s own team mates told English that they wanted him to beat Reed. During his college years there were numerous reports of Reed improving his lie and other misdemeanours.

Golf journalist Scott Michaux has written: ‘He was persona non grata when he was kicked off the team at Georgia in 2009 after one season, and most on the Augusta State roster [where he ended up] tolerated him as a necessary evil in helping deliver the school consecutive NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] championships in 2010 and 2011.’

More directly, fellow tour pro Kevin Kisner said: ‘They all hate him – any guys that were on the team with him (at Georgia) hate him and that’s the same way at Augusta. I don’t know that they’d piss on him if he was on fire, to tell you the truth.’

Inevitably, the latest incident was addressed during the post-round TV interview and Reed was disingenuous, putting it mildly, in saying: ‘There were seven of us [three players, their caddies and a marshal] within five yards and none of us saw the ball bounce.’ They may have been within five yards when Reed arrived at his ball – although none but his caddie were in camera shot – but they were nearer 170-yards away when it fell to ground. This sort of obfuscation only serves to deepen suspicions that something smelly happened.

With Patrick’s history he needs to be Caesar’s wife – to not only be above suspicion, but to be seen as such – and yet he continues to behave in ways that are questionable, to say the least.

You cannot fail to be impressed witnessing Patrick Reed play golf; he’s an extraordinary talent and in particular his short game is a thing of beauty. But increasingly I have to watch him with a peg over my nose.

Quote of the Week
You know that once you’re successful, there’s going to be good things and bad things that people say and, honestly, to me it doesn’t really matter.
Patrick Reed

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