MELBOURNE, Australia — I thought Patrick Reed deserved the benefit of the doubt. That was my thinking after reviewing what happened at the Hero World Challenge last weekend in the Bahamas where Reed was assessed a two-stroke penalty for improving his lie in a waste bunker.
I saw the video, then looked into Reed’s eyes Tuesday when he offered his explanation of what happened and why his actions were unintentional.
“I wasn’t intentionally trying to improve a lie or anything like that,” Reed explained, “because if I was it would have been a really good lie and I would have hit it really close.”
Logically, it doesn’t make sense Reed would try to intentionally cheat on a Friday of a tournament that if it wasn’t hosted by Tiger Woods would hardly receive much attention. The reward wasn’t worth the risk. Reed knows he already has a sketchy reputation, so why risk getting caught doing something at Tiger’s tournament for a couple of extra bucks.
In the end, the two-stroke penalty cost him as he finished two strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson. But now that incident has become bigger than life at the 13th President Cup and will stay with Reed for the rest of his career. That’s actually a sad thing for golf and the Presidents Cup.
Reed will be without caddie Kessler Karain on Sunday when he plays his singles match against C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei in the third match of the day. Trailing 10-8 and needing 15½ points to retain the Cup, every match is crucial for the United States. But Karain, who is also Reed’s brother-in-law, won’t be on his bag after shoving and cursing a belligerent fan following Reed’s Four-Ball match Saturday afternoon at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
Karain admitted his actions and showed no remorse after Reed endured three days of heckling from crowds in Australia over the incident in the Bahamas. In a statement to @foreplaypod, Karain said the man stood three feet from Reed and told him “you f—ing suck.” Karain said, “I got off the cart and shoved him, said a couple of things, probably a few expletives.”
“I don’t think there’s a caddie I know that would blame me,” Karain wrote.
First of all, a caddie or player should never put their hands on a spectator — regardless of the filth that can come out of their mouths. Not in any sporting event at any venue, and the PGA Tour’s suspension of Karain for the today’s singles match was appropriate and necessary.
But it’s a terrible stain on the Presidents Cup, which is set up to have perhaps the most watched and dramatic finish in the 25-year history of the event with Tiger Woods serving as a playing captain. That should be the story, but much of the focus will be on Reed and the crowd on Sunday.
Aussie golfer Cameron Smith lit a match by accusing Reed of being a “cheater” and Marc Leishman, who grew up outside of Melbourne, suggested fans at the Presidents Cup heckle Reed over the incident.
Ernie Els, captain of the International team, inadvertently fanned the flames by asking the Aussie crowds to be more boisterous, a common theme at these team exhibitions like the Ryder Cup. Of course, there are plenty of yahoos who see that as a free pass to act ignorant.
“There’s obviously some yelling,” Woods said late Saturday. “There’s people who have had a lot to drink and have gone over the top. Bipartisanship is part of playing in team matches, whether you’re home or on the road. It’s part of the deal. As long as the fans are respectful, and that’s all we ask is for them to be respectful.”
These team events can bring out the best and worst in fans. I walked inside the ropes when Colin Montgomerie was the target of abuse from fans when the Ryder Cup was played on American soil. And I was walking with Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Ryder Cup in Hazeltine, Minn., when a fan yelled a profanity in his ear. McIIroy stopped dead in his tracks, pointed out the spectator and had him removed.
But these events are also a chance to dress in the colors of your country, enjoy sing-alongs and watch players show more emotion than they would at regular Tour events.
Had the Presidents Cup not been played the week after Reed’s infraction in the Bahamas, it would have largely been forgotten. Now it’s a stain on what could be the best Presidents Cup of all time.