Golfer Patrick Reed gets booed at President’s Cup for cheating scandal 

By: |
December 15, 2019 5:33 AM

The lapse is mental more than anything else for Reed. It all started last week in the Bahamas where, as part of an elite field competing at the Hero World Challenge, Reed was assessed a two-shot penalty for improving his lie in a bunker.

Golf, Patrick Reed, President's Cup, cheating scandal , Ryder CupPatrick Reed plays from the rough during the President’s Cup golf tournament at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne (AP)

I’m no fan of Patrick Reed and I’ll tell you why a bit later. Right now though, depending on when you’re reading this on Sunday, the final round—comprising of singles matches—of the President’s Cup is underway. The International team went in with an 10–8 lead today morning to try and win the event only for the second time in the event’s history. The third match of the day is between CT Pan—the 28-year-old Taiwanese sensation—and Reed. Now even though a number of you may not have heard of Pan, he’s already got the better of Reed twice this week, both times in the four-balls format paired with Japanese player Hideki Matsuyama. Reed’s been a bit off his usual doughty self, and hasn’t quite displayed the fire he’s known for, especially in team matchplay events. I mean who can forget Reed’s now fabled takedown of Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

The lapse is mental more than anything else for Reed. It all started last week in the Bahamas where, as part of an elite field competing at the Hero World Challenge, Reed was assessed a two-shot penalty for improving his lie in a bunker.

On the 11th hole of the third round, Reed took two practice swings—both of which pushed back sand—and caught the attention of tournament officials. Now golf rules can be complicated (and certainly, the recent amendments have not helped), but not grounding your club in a bunker, is probably the first rule you learn when you play the game. And we all usually learn it the hard way.

“It was not my intention to improve the lie. I don’t ever put the club directly behind the ball on my practice swings because I’m always scared of moving the ball. So I’m always going to give myself some room. But after seeing that camera angle—it brushed the sand, and it’s a penalty. I accept that,” Reed said in his defence. The gracious response from Slugger White, PGA Tour VP of Rules and Competitions, was that intent does not matter when it comes to deciding the penalty.

My response to that, not exactly unique in the world of golf, and one which explains why Reed has been lambasted by a legion of past and present players, and heckled non-stop at the President’s Cup this week, is: ‘Are you kidding me!’ I’m sorry, but a golf professional who’s been playing all his life, couldn’t tell that he brushed the sand back, not once but twice in a row? I mean that is so ludicrous a suggestion that I have nothing but admiration for Reed’s brazenness.

Others have hardly viewed his infraction through a more forgiving lens. International team opponent Cameron Smith of Australia was the most straightforward. “I don’t have sympathy for anyone that cheats. If you make a mistake maybe once, you could maybe understand, but to give a bulls–t response like [blaming] the camera angle … that’s pretty up there,” Smith said.

Greg Norman, the Australian golfing legend was amongst those viewing the Hero World Challenge on television and immediately brought the infraction to the notice of PGA Tour officials. “I feel for not just the pros. I feel for all the amateurs,” Norman said. “Like today when I played in the pro-am, what was the first point of conversation? ‘Oh, well Patrick Reed did it. Can we do it?’ Well, you can’t do that.”

Norman later went on air on his radio show to say that he was ‘repulsed’ by Reed’s cheating. “From my personal perspective, you know, I get really repulsed with that because, to me, you’ve got to protect the integrity of the game, not protect the player,” he said.

On cue, the Australian crowd has been giving Reed a mighty hard time in Melbourne where the President’s Cup is being played. The gallery burst into applause when Reed’s first drive of the event found a bunker; “You’re really going to make your caddie carry 14 clubs and a shovel?” one fan shouted. Heckled constantly throughout his two match-ups, Reed managed to put up a defiant face, but his caddie, Kessler Karain, got into an altercation with a spectator. As a result, Karain has been banned from carrying Reed’s bag on Sunday which instead will be taken by Reed’s swing coach Kevin Kirk.

Kirk’s probably not looking forward to the experience. Reed has never been much of a crowd favourite. In 2018, on the eve of the final round at The Masters Tournament, Reed was asked why some people (especially on social media) tend to give him flak. “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask them?” he said. “I mean, I have no idea, and honestly I don’t really care what people say on Twitter or what they say if they are cheering for me or not cheering for me. I’m out here to do my job, and that’s to play golf. I feel like if I’m doing it the right way, then that’s all that really matters.”

Well, shovelling sand out from behind the ball in a bunker to improve its lie is certainly not doing it the right way. In fact it goes against the very grain of what golf is about—playing with honour and integrity. And that’s something that has to be consistent no matter what the camera angle might be. Shame.

A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game

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