As Rory McIlroy punched the air after holing that 15-foot winning putt to win the 2023 Dubai Desert Classic, you couldn't help but wonder just how quickly it took for Patrick Reed-related thoughts to enter his mind.
We will probably never know exactly what he said to himself seconds after that wonderfully-dramatic moment on the 18th green at the Majlis course, but his immediate post-round interview with Sky TV gave a fairly decent insight.
The four-time Major champion, without a lot of prompting, said the victory “was probably sweeter than it should be or needs to be.” His superb birdie – he was inches from hitting his tee shot into the water after all – did deny us the mouthwatering prospect of a play-off with ‘Captain America’ but surely most of the millions watching on TV enjoyed the manner in which the door to a Reed victory was opened, as McIlroy laid up on the last, but was then slammed shut as the three-time Dubai Desert Classic champion holed a treacherous putt down the green and through his shadow.
It really did feel like a victory for the ‘good guys’ with LIV golfers – it wasn’t just Reed – prominent in the upper echelons of the leaderboard during the final two rounds.
But because it was the divisive American who emerged as his only challenger down the stretch, the sense of ‘good versus evil’ was palpable, reinforced by his actions on Sunday night after he drove his ball into a tree on the 17th.
The referee rightly said Reed had to be “100% certain” the ball he had spotted was his.
Let's take a look at Patrick Reed's controversial ruling 🌴👀
Did he do anything wrong? 🧐 pic.twitter.com/jrptoalobv
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) January 29, 2023
However all the time the duo were having the conversation to establish the ball was unplayable, they were in the wrong place. It had actually hit the palm 10 yards further back.
The player went on to assert that, not only could he see the black line he draws on his ball, he could also make out the distinctive “arrow” he makes, which was enough to convince the referee.
Of course what neither of them knew was the TV cameras had clearly tracked the ball going into the first of three trees up the right hand side of the short par four. It meant it was an impossibility the ball had been found, unless it was one he had previously hit… possibly in a practice round.
But it is precisely this kind of incident that has dogged his career, of course following swiftly on from ‘teegate’.
Quite what possessed him to throw a LIV tee in the direction of McIlroy on the range is not clear. It speaks more to the character of the man that he felt able to try and mend bridges so publicly and so crassly after McIlroy, quite rightly, got rather annoyed at having his Christmas disturbed by a member of Reed’s legal team. The former Masters champion is believed to be suing various media outlets over their reporting of his transition to LIV Golf and, while The Northern Irishman was with his family on Christmas Eve, he got a knock on the door to be issued with a subpoena. Not really the package he was expecting at that time of year.
Reed was at the centre of more controversy at the Farmers Insurance in 2021 when he did not wait for a rules official to clarify whether his ball had been embedded, moving it before calling for a ruling. However, again, the TV video replay clearly showed the ball bouncing before coming to rest in thickish rough. Any golfer knows that makes it impossible for a ball to plug so deeply.
Two years earlier we had the fractious President’s Cup in Australia, which followed hot on the heels of ‘bunkergate’ – Reed had been penalised two shots for improving a sandy lie at the World Hero Challenge.
The Aussie spectators were not going to let one of the ‘opposition’ forget about an incident so out of keeping with the fairplay traditions of golf and he became the No 1 target for the home fans.
Things got so heated that Reed’s caddie got involved with a member of the crowd and was sent home in disgrace after admitting to shoving the man who had allegedly told his player “you f*cking suck” (by the way that is nothing compared to the abuse Colin Montgomerie suffered on the final day at Brookline in the 1999 Ryder Cup but two wrongs don’t make a right).
— 9News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) December 14, 2019
In fact unpleasant allegations around Reed started during his college days. He spent a year at the University of Georgia before being asked to leave. The player said it was for non-golfing reasons but then assistant coach Jason Payne confirmed otherwise. Reed was accused of stealing and cheating by former team-mates.
At the 2014 Ryder Cup Patrick Reed was in inspired form and his heroics, in defeat, earned him the nickname of ‘Captain America’.
It is something that has stuck although fans of the Marvel comics and films will tell you the original superhero represents all that is good and wholesome.
Captain America the golfer is many things and skillful is definitely one of them. But maybe he needs a new nickname.
To the golf fans of the world he is more The Joker than ‘Cap’.