With Patrick Reed becoming the latest big name to join LIV Golf, Phil Mickelson will have to relinquish the bad-guy role he’s been shouldering thus far. Phil can only claim a few months of questionable decisions and unfortunate remarks after decades of good deed and immense popularity. Reed, on the other hand, can point to a vast resume of unsavory incidents and eyebrow-raising episodes going back a great many years.
Even the swarthy new look that Phil introduced for the LIV event in London, and the testy attitude he displayed at the U.S. Open press conference, won’t change the fact that he will eventually return to his natural nice guy habitat. And while Reed has not done or said anything recently to draw the spotlight, you can be sure it won’t be long—and the media will have an enormous reservoir of ammunition to work with.
Most everyone is aware that Reed has been called out a number of times over the years for skirting the rules to improve his lie and gain an advantage on the field. The first was in 2016 during the Barclays Championship at Bethpage, when he was faced with a 300-yard second shot from heavy rough on the long par-5 13th hole. The ball was sitting down, and it was clear that Reed would have no choice but to lay back with an iron. After placing a wedge behind the ball 4-5 times as if preparing to hit the shot, all the while depressing the tall grass, he suddenly reached into his bag and whipped out a wood—an option that was originally out of the question—and striped it down the fairway to set up a short approach. He didn’t receive a penalty, because there was no official near-by and his playing partners didn’t see it.
Peter Kostis: “By the time he was done, he hit a freaking 3-wood out of there, which when I saw it, it was a sand wedge layup originally.”
Another episode occurred at the 2019 Hero Challenge, when Reed prepared to hit his third shot from a waste area on the par-5 11th hole. Sand was piled behind his ball, so he placed his wedge behind it and took a couple of “practice” back swings, sweeping the sand away to allow a nice clean strike. This time he was hit with a 2-stroke penalty, because it was simply too flagrant and observed by thousands watching the telecast.
Brooks Koepka: “…there’s no room for intentional rule breaking…Yeah. I don’t know what he was doing, building sand castles in the sand. But you know where your club is.”
The most recent blow-up came during the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, when Reed hooked his approach well left into thick, damp rough. After seeing his ball sitting well down in the grass with little chance of getting his third shot anywhere near the pin, he asked a near-by volunteer if the ball had bounced before coming to rest. When told it had flown directly into the grass without a bounce, making it possible for the ball to be embedded (which would justify relief), he quickly scooped it up and began probing with his finger—determining that it “broke ground” and was therefore entitled to a free drop. He then called for an official to examine the area where he had been probing, and received a favorable ruling. The problem is that television coverage clearly showed that the ball took a low trajectory bounce forward before coming to rest, making the chance that the ball would then “embed” in the ground extremely remote. In light of his prior infractions, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
Xander Schauffele: “Obviously, the talk amongst the boys isn’t great, but he’s protected by the Tour and that’s all that matters, I guess.”
Reed then threw Rory McIlroy under the bus, claiming he had done exactly the same thing. Indeed, Rory had taken embedded ball relief on a shot that bounced before coming to rest. The difference was that Rory’s ball had also been stepped on by a volunteer while he was trying to locate it—and of course, there has never been a question about McIlroy’s integrity.
Reed’s tremendous talent and laser focused desire to win have always been unquestioned, as illustrated by the success he’s had at every level of golf—but his tendency for rubbing people the wrong way, combined with an abrasive public persona, have fueled his “bad guy” image. Patrick was born in San Antonio, TX and his family moved to Baton Rouge, LA when he was in his mid-teens. His record as a Junior was outstanding, leading his high school golf team to state championships in 2006 and 2007, and he reached the semi-final of the US Amateur in 2008. After High School Patrick opted to play his college golf at The University of Georgia, where his current public persona began to take shape. Confidence is a critical element for success, and Reed possessed it in abundance. His supreme confidence, however, soon morphed into what might be called “disagreeable arrogance,” impacting team chemistry. Following an alcohol related incident that would not typically result in dismissal, Reed was dropped from the program while still in his freshman year.
Jason Payne (Georgia Golf Coach): “While getting to know Patrick through the recruiting process as a coach, a few character issues came to light, that we as coaches thought we could help Patrick with,” he said. “Once Patrick was on campus for a few months, it became clear that Patrick was not going to mesh with the make-up of the team at that time, and he was dismissed from the team.”
Reed promptly transferred to Augusta University, where he led the Jaguars to consecutive NCAA Division I golf titles (2010 and 2011), while going undefeated in match play (6-0). The second championship, ironically, came when the Jaguars bested Georgia in the final, with Reed defeating Harris English in the deciding match. The win over English, who also went on to a successful PGA Tour career, burnished Reed’s reputation as a hard-nosed competitor—but his image among peers remained less than stellar.
Kevin Kisner: “They all hate him—any guys that were on the team with him hate him and that’s the same way at Augusta…. I don’t know that they’d piss on him if he was on fire, to tell you the truth.”
Following the second NCAA championship in 2011, Reed turned pro, earning exempt status on the PGA tour by 2013. Throughout his career, Patrick has recorded 9 Tour wins, including a major championship (2018 Masters) and 43 Top-10’s. He has also been outstanding at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, with a combined record of 11 wins, 6 losses and 4 ties (particularly when he defeated Rory McIlroy in 2016, one of the greatest matches in Ryder Cup history).
His successes, however, have been accompanied by statements and episodes that made Reed less than appealing in the public eye, beginning in 2014 when he declared himself to be one of the top 5 players in world after winning his 3rd tournament at 23 years old (he was No. 44 in the World Golf Rankings at the time, although the win moved him up to No. 20). At Bay Hill in 2018 an official refused to grant him relief when his ball landed in a bush, at which point he turned to the gallery and said “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth.”
As P.T. Barnum said, “there is no such thing as bad publicity,” so Patrick Reed and LIV may well be a match made in heaven.
Brooks Koepka and Abraham Ancer have become the latest PGA Tour players to announce their intention to join LIV Golf. Following a dismal finish at the U.S. Open, in the midst of a disappointing season in which he’s recorded only 2 Top-10’s and missed the cut in 6 of the 15 events played, Brooks’ departure does not come as a complete shock. Koepka has always focused primarily on the major championships, and with 4 major wins at 32 years of age, still has the opportunity to add to his record and etch his name among the greats of the game. While the USGA allowed LIV members to compete at the U.S Open, and the R&A has announced that they will be allowed to compete at the Open Championship in July, the position of the powers that be at Augusta National and the PGA of America are less than clear with regard to the 2023 Masters and PGA Championship. Should joining LIV prevent him from participating in 2 of the 4 majors going forward, Brooks may have deep regrets over his decision to take the money.