Patrick Reed: 'It’s not like I tried to assassinate Rory McIlroy'
In less than a day Patrick Reed went from calling Rory McIlroy “an immature child” to praising the world No 1 for alerting him to the fact he could return to bed for a few more hours of sleep because of a weather delay to the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Things move fast in golf in the LIV Golf era and after the bitterness of the practice days – in which Reed was incensed after being ignored by McIlroy – he was suddenly all smiles when asked about the Northern Irishman.
And with good reason, because without McIlroy’s generous advice, Reed would have been at Majlis Course six hours before he needed to be.
“I woke up at 5am and was on my way to get a car to get here for my 7.40am tee-off time,” Reed explained. “I hadn’t seen that play had been suspended while they got all the water off the course after the storms. But when we were on steps of the hotel where we are both staying, Rory came up and said ‘you don’t have to go yet, we aren’t playing for a while’. ‘Ok, thanks,’ I said.
“So, I went back to bed. It’s nice to think that this means that it’s all good again between me and Rory, but I was with my caddie and coach at the time, so he might have been telling them. Yet I’ve taken it as a little victory. It was nice to move on from all that today. I’ve seen they’ve labelled it ‘Teegate’, as if it was an assassination or something. It was built out of all proportion.”
To recap, Reed tried to wish McIlroy a happy new year on the range here on Monday, but McIlroy chose to blank the American because Reed’s lawyer had served him with a subpoena on Christmas Eve in an antitrust case against the PGA Tour.
Reed, who claims to have nothing to do with that particular legal wrangle, then tried to be humorous, tossing a LIV-branded tee at the feet of McIlroy, but the four-time major winner was oblivious. Cue headlines across the globe, despite the video of the supposed “teethrowing” highlight showing how ludicrously innocuous the incident happened to be.
On Wednesday, there was the predictable too-ing and fro-ing across the media, as McIlroy asked “why should I acknowledge him?” and Reed replied with a few ill-advised insults. Inevitably, there was then great anticipation to see how the pair would cope in the spotlight in the first round of this $9m event, but the desert downpour ensured there were no spectators permitted on the course and that play did not begin until 1.15pm.
In the event the duo performed admirably, although with Reed – or “Captain America” as he christened himself in the Ryder Cup – it has become something of a habit to produce when his back is against the wall.
Reed went through the 15 holes he managed before the hooter sounded in four-under, one behind pacesetter Thomas Pieters (the Belgian who also has three holes remaining) and two ahead of McIlroy, who has a four-footer for birdie to return to on Friday morning on the par-three seventh, his third from last hole.
Starting at the same time, but off the first tee and 10th tee respectively, the paths of McIlroy and Reed crossed on the shared green between the ninth and 18th. They were just about within tee-throwing distance.
“Yeah, I saw Rory but it was a case of our group and their group looking at each other so we didn’t play at the same time out of respect. There was no problem. I’ve always just been the type of man who can compartmentalise a lot of things and focus on my job.”
But did McIlroy take motivation from that juxtaposition in front of the grandstands? Well, he was one-over at the time on his first outing of the year and proceeded to birdie three of the next four. Maybe, this was the kind of summons he required.