It’s official. Patrick Reed is the most hated man in golf. The Boogeyman. A Russian implant.
Does he deserve this reputation? Good question.
Reed’s troubles began at the University of Georgia. As a freshman member of the Bulldogs’ golf team, there was an incident at a qualifying event for a collegiate tournament. Reed reportedly hit a drive into some deep rough. There was apparently another ball in the same area of rough, closer to the fairway and in a better lie.
The story goes that Reed prepared to hit that second ball when his teammates confronted him, telling him that wasn’t his ball. He is said to have pleaded ignorance, saying it was an honest mistake. He has strongly denied any intent to cheat, then and now.
Then, apparently some items went missing from the UGeorgia locker room: $400 in cash and some other things. Reed’s teammates allegedly blamed Reed for the theft. Again, he has vehemently denied any involvement. And no proof has ever surfaced indicating that Reed was the culprit.
Finally, Reed ran afoul of alcohol and the law: twice he was arrested in Athens, Georgia for public intoxication. The second time he was busted, he tried to keep it secret from his coaches. They found out. Reed left Georgia, enrolled at Augusta State and helped them win Division I titles in 2010 and 2011.
Both in college and in the pros, Reed developed a reputation for cockiness bordering on abrasiveness. At the 2014 Ryder Cup, he shushed the European crowd with a finger to his lips after sinking an important putt. Later in 2014, playing at the HSBC Champions in China, he was overheard muttering a gay slur after missing a putt (I’m assuming he was berating himself for missing the putt, not blaming some gay guy standing nearby). He apologized for his inappropriate use of language.
His former college teammates at both Georgia and Augusta State have publically commented on his demeanor, which remains squarely in the cocky and abrasive range. Dottie Pepper, who was a notable crowd shusher in international competitions and a bit abrasive herself, has yet to chime in.
Being cocky and abrasive is not against the law. In fact, it’s not all that unusual on the PGA Tour. I remember the time a young Gary Player called Ben Hogan to ask for some swing advice. “Don’t you play Dunlop clubs?” asked Hogan. “Why, yes I do,” Player answered. “Then go call Mr. Dunlop,” Hogan said, . Nice, huh? Hogan never won the Miss Congeniality trophy.
Then there is the example of Tiger Woods. Great champion, wonderful golfer, amazing to watch over the years. Also (and ask any of his fellow competitors) he is aloof, arrogant, off-putting and cold to a lot of his fellow players. Just like Patrick Reed.
Finally, late last year, Reed was accused of improving his lie in a bunker during a tournament in the Bahamas by taking some sweeping practice swings. His ball was in a “waste area,” not a proper bunker, which was full of footprints and in which players were allowed to ground their clubs. But the video shows clearly that he moved some sand out of the way behind his ball prior to making his swing. He was adjudged to have violated the Rules and hit with a two-shot penalty.
His fellow players have agreed that he violated the Rules in the Bahamas incident. Brooks Koepka went public. Piling on, TV talking head Peter Kostis said he’s seen Reed break the Rules of Golf four other times. Kostis hasn’t given us any details on those other incidents, because he knows that there is videotape on virtually every shot every pro takes on Tour, and somebody would check.
But now Patrick Reed wears the Scarlet C for cheater, is asked about it in every media interview (like after he won the Mexican tournament recently) and is booed by fans.
Is this fair? I don’t think so. The collegiate stuff smacks of jealousy from teammates who didn’t like the kid’s attitude. But it created a shadow that follows Reed around. He was clearly guilty of a violation in the Bahamas, but—like Dustin Johnson in that bunker at the last hole of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits some years ago—it’s easy to get confused on courses that have waste areas and bunkers. And he paid his penalty with the two-stroke penalty.
Golf has had its share of cheating scandals over the years. The LPGA’s Jane Blalock was accused several times of mis-marking her ball on the greens and was eventually suspended for a time. Vijay Singh was also once accused to playing fast and loose with his ball marker. Tom Watson once accused Gary Player of improving his lie at the Skins Game, those made-for-TV events that were once enormously popular. Players routinely grumble about their competitors who tamped down spike marks (before that became OK), fudge on the ball-marking thing and otherwise skate right up to the edge of the Rules.
Golf, of course, is unique as a game in which the players are expected to self-regulate their behavior. Most of the time, they do. So when Patrick Reed gets caught in a doozy, people talk.
Fair enough. Reed has no wiggle room left, probably for the rest of his career. And since he seems to be one who doesn’t give a crap about what other people think, he’s likely in for a long and lonely ride.
But he’s still a talented golfer with one major under his belt so far, so I don’t think he’s going away any time soon. Buckle up, this might get interesting.
Speaking of two-stroke penalties, this blog post is brought to you by….