Tiger Woods backs his ‘Captain America’ as controversy greets U.S. team in Australia for Presidents Cup
MELBOURNE, Australia – Patrick Reed always has been a lightning rod, on and off the golf course.
An outspoken player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, Reed also seems to have a chip on his shoulder, as well.
Reed often flourishes in team competitions, wearing the red, white and blue proudly. He has been dubbed Captain America, mainly for his Ryder Cup exploits.
So, this would seem to be a positive week for Reed and the Americans, who are seeking an 11th victory in the Presidents Cup in the 13th biennial matches against the Internationals.
Yet, discussion early in the week here has focused not so much on the matches but on Reed's actions last week during the third round of the Hero World Challenge, when he improved his lie in a sandy waste area and incurred a two-shot penalty. He eventually finished third, two strokes behind Henrik Stenson.
One of the first questions to Reed from the assembled media on Tuesday afternoon at Royal Melbourne was predictable: “Did you cheat?”
His answer was equally predictable: “Of course not.”
But the incident in the Bahamas was just another in a long line of transgressions that have made Reed, 29, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, a questionable figure in a game in which integrity is held in the highest regard.
After Reed won the 2018 Masters, the story about his estrangement from his family — who live in the Augusta area and were not invited to see Reed play – rivaled his winning the green jacket. Later that year, Reed expressed his unhappiness at not being paired with Jordan Spieth as the Americans absorbed a 17½-10½ spanking by the Europeans in France.
In both cases, Reed left unattended baggage.
Those two incidents are only the latest in Reed’s controversial career.
During his formative years, Reed was hit with allegations of theft and cheating, according to current touring pros who played with Reed during his aborted freshman season at Georgia. He transferred to Augusta State, where he played a key role on back-to-back NCAA title teams in 2010 and 2011.
Despite the pattern of misconduct, U.S. captain Tiger Woods says, “I think Pat will be fine. Pat is a great kid. He’s handled a tough upbringing well, and I just think that he’s one of our best team players and is one of the reasons why all of the guys wanted him on the team.”
Woods is correct that Reed is a match-play stalwart. He owns an 11-6-4 record in the Ryder and Presidents cups. Las Vegas oddsmakers have made him a 10-1 choice to be the high point-getter for the U.S. this week – not the favorite but among the top 5.
“Talking to the caddies, a lot of caddies really like him. Some shook their heads; the players all kind of shook their heads, but they like him,” NBC analyst Paul Azinger said of the reactions he saw and heard on the charter from the Bahamas to Melbourne after the Hero World Challenge. “It might motivate the Internationals for a hot minute, but that’s about it.”
Social media holds little regard for Reed’s ability as a team player. When players from all around the world, including Australians Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman of the International squad, are questioning Reed’s behavior, any perceived benefit of having him on the team seems more like the law of diminishing returns.
“Obviously they didn’t like what they saw,” International captain Ernie Els said of the comments from some of his players. “It’s got nothing to do with us.”
Reed’s response about the Internationals’ comments was a little different.
“They’re not supposed to talk good about us, and we’re not supposed to talk good about them leading into this event, that’s normal. At the end of the day, I can only control me.”
Woods expects Reed to be able to handle whatever happens this week.
“I'm sure somebody's going to say something out there,” Woods said regarding potential fan reaction to Reed. “But I think that in general, all the times I have been to Australia and have played here, the fans have been fantastic. They are the most knowledgeable, the most excitable fans.”
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