American Reed is famously volatile character and one of golf’s leading ‘rebels’ who abandoned the PGA Tour last year in favour of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, causing tensions to simmer throughout 2022 with those who stayed loyal to existing golf infrastructure, including McIlroy.
That looks set to continue into 2023 as flashpoints occur while LIV players compete in DP World Tour events to earn official world ranking points that aren’t currently available for LIV tournaments, although an arbitration case is currently ongoing to decide whether the Tour has the right to suspend the rebels.
In Dubai this week, Reed is said to have saluted McIlroy’s caddie Harry Diamond without incident before approaching the Northern Irishman, who was on his haunches at the time, looking at the ground.
Reed stood near McIlroy for few seconds with the intention of saying hello, to no response, before saluting him but again getting no acknowledgement from McIlroy. At that point, Reed gave up and walked away but not before pulling a tee from his pocket and throwing it in McIlroy’s direction in disgust.
Asked what had happened in his pre-tournament press conference, McIlroy said: “I was down by my bag and he came up to me, and I was busy working and sort of doing my practice, and I didn’t really feel like... I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge him.
“So I didn’t see a tee coming my direction at all, but apparently that’s what happened. And if roles were reversed and I’d have thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting a lawsuit.”
The Irish Independent reported that the incident occurred at the Emirates Golf Club, where both players are competing in the DP World Tour event, the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, which starts later this week.
The incident was apparently the talk of the practice range and comes on the heels of tension during last year’s golfing calendar, when Reed hit out at McIlroy - who had spoken strongly against the rebels and their participation in Tour events.
McIlroy felt LIV golfers should not have been allowed to compete in last September’s BMW PGA Championship and mocked LIV’s shortened format, saying at the time: “They shouldn’t be here, but again that’s just my opinion. But we are all going to tee it up on the first tee and we are all going to go play 72 holes, which is a novelty for them at this point, and then we’ll go from there.”
Reed responded in an interview with The Times as he lambasted McIlroy and PGA Tour pro Billy Horschel, who had backed the Brit’s comments.
“I feel like [Rory] making those types of comments is insulting,” Reed said. “Let’s be honest, I’ve [played the DP World Tour] more consistently than some of the Europeans on the PGA Tour, so for them to take shots at other guys, especially Billy and Rory taking shots at the LIV guys saying they shouldn’t be here.”
The pair famously clashed during the 2016 Ryder Cup in a fierce partisan atmosphere at Hazeltine, Minnesota, producing one of the most memorable matches in the history of the old battle between the USA and Europe, which Reed eventually won.
They are unlikely to come up against each other in the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome later this year, as LIV players are currently excluded from the event.