News & Opinion

Golf’s divisive dilemma: DeChambeau or Reed?

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Bryson DeChambeau (left) and Patrick Reed

John Hawkins and Mike Purkey debate which of the brash young Americans is the more polarizing figure on the PGA Tour, and the answer, befitting of the players themselves, is complicated

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Who is the more polarizing figure in pro golf: Patrick Reed or Bryson DeChambeau?

Hawk’s take: Reed is the perennial poster boy for all things pious and punkish, but DeChambeau swiftly has unseated Pat the Brat as the game’s lead lightning rod. The kid never misses an 8-footer without a theatrical wince, as if the offending hole had the temerity to pass gas in an elevator. He’s also slower than I-5 traffic, which is why DeChambeau became the prime suspect in last summer’s pace-of-play fiasco. After the usual triple denial, the SMU physics major promised to speed things up and get with the program.

Guess who wound up on the clock last weekend in Mexico?

In just about any context, “polarizing” is a synonym for “unlikeable,” and that certainly seems to be the case here. Reed is brash, flippant and amazingly uncaring when it comes to his lack of popularity. His reputation as a cheater is growing by the hour, but if breaking the rules is golf’s ultimate sin, the body of evidence against Reed remains inconclusive.

DeChambeau’s body language, meanwhile, has left the jury of popular opinion with no choice but to issue a guilty verdict. Slow play is another of the game’s most serious felonies. When a tour pro takes forever, then carries himself like a spoiled teenager when things don’t go exactly his way, we’re left to rue the harmful effects of fame and fortune on someone who gets to play a silly game for a living.

Case closed.

Purk’s take: One of the definitions of “polarize” is to “divide or cause to divide into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.” Believe it or not, Reed has fans, very rabid ones. During the Ryder Cup, practically no one gets more or louder cheers than does Reed.

He’s enthusiastically adopted his nickname of “Captain America,” and he’ll take on anyone, anytime, anywhere. A ton of people love his willingness to fight to the end for team and country.

However, it’s that me-against-the-world attitude that rubs a growing legion of fans as wrong a way as you can imagine. He doesn’t appear to care that his unapologetic flouting of the rules is rapidly branding him with the “c” word that no one in golf likes to talk about.

Whether his reputation bothers him, we’ll never know. He just straps his blinders on and uses the negative energy to power him past his accusers, his doubters and people who just plain don’t like him. But no matter which side you come down on, Reed is becoming golf’s biggest problem, and the game’s executive branch doesn’t know what to do with him.

If he keeps going unchecked, even his fans could turn on him.

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