News & Opinion

Is it time to cut Patrick Reed some slack?

Patrick Reed at pro-am before 2021 Saudi International
Who, me? Patrick Reed reacts during the pro-am Wednesday at the European Tour’s Saudi International.

Golf’s bad boy did nothing wrong in taking a drop for an embedded ball en route to winning at Torrey Pines, and the outcry is unfair

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – It’s hard to give Patrick Reed a second chance. Or would this be the third, fourth or fifth?

Even agreeing on how many questionable acts have occurred with Reed, dating to his college days at Georgia and the Augusta State and now as a professional golfer, is hard to compute.

But one thing that seems overwhelmingly clear is that Reed didn’t do anything wrong when he took a drop from an embedded ball on the 10th hole Saturday in the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open, which he won by five strokes for his ninth PGA Tour victory.

That is not just my opinion but that of Rory McIlroy, who had a similar situation on the 18th hole in Saturday’s third round, and Graeme McDowell, who will be competing here in the European Tour’s Saudi International this week.

“I felt like he did things OK,” said McDowell, who said he saw a limited amount of footage of the incident at Torrey Pines in San Diego. “I felt like he pretty much went about the procedure the way you're supposed to. You know, unfortunately, he's created a name for himself, which attracts a huge amount of attention when he does things.”

McDowell is correct. Reed, through his past actions, has created a situation in which, if his name is in some way connected with a rules issue, many observers presume that he is in the wrong.

In the most recent rules dispute, Reed consistently has maintained in interviews after the round, after the tournament and again here Wednesday that he did nothing wrong.

“Really, what happened at 10 last week, I feel like it was handled the best way that we could, and it was obviously handled the correct way when talking with the rules officials and seeing it through the rules officials,” Reed said. 

Journalists, social-media observers and professional golfers have poked and prodded Reed in person, online or via having their thoughts reported through the media.

Xander Schauffele, a vocal critic of Reed’s actions at Torrey Pines, said, “The talk amongst the boys isn't great ... but he's protected by the Tour, and that's all that matters.”

Since his outburst, Schauffele reached out to Reed via text, when Reed was on a plane en route to Saudi Arabia. Once Reed landed, they corresponded by text, and Reed said, “We’re all good.”

Schauffele was right about one thing: The PGA Tour does look out for its own, releasing video of McIlroy on the 18th hole taking a drop for an embedded ball (Rule 16.3), after the ball had bounced, which no one on the seen had observed. The video was not part of the original broadcast but was provided only after the Reed issue came to light.

It’s only natural for the PGA Tour to come to the defense of one of its players, which Schauffele should realize. But to suggest that the Tour is playing favorites is so far afield that it makes Schauffele look small and petty, which he is not.

So, what do you know about Reed?  

His career is not close to running its course, and his talent will keep him in professional golf for years to come, so what to do?

We are living in polarized times, and professional golf is no different, with factions often strongly for or against something. In Reed’s case, the divide does not appear to be an equal split, with many golfers siding against the 2018 Masters champion. That’s why the perfunctory drop at Torrey Pines escalated into a brouhaha that was so unnecessary.

Reed never will be regarded as an angel of the PGA Tour, and he likely will provide future fodder for colorful commentary. He’s a different personality. As much as you might want to question his actions last weekend or blame him for violating the rules, it seems clear that he is innocent – at least this time.

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