10 Dec 2019 | Professional golf |

Reed digs in as Cup drama flows

by Mark Hayes

Patrick Reed at Royal Melbourne today.
Patrick Reed at Royal Melbourne today.

"Ladies and gentlemen, on the first tee, `The Excavator'."

And so it began, very early, in a week that will be all about Patrick Reed, with a heckler before his opening practice round drive.

It will take a heinous act from someone else during this Presidents Cup to take the mantle of arch villain away from Reed, whose latest in a long series of alleged misdemeanors has the golfing world abuzz.

The brash 2018 Masters champion was penalised two strokes for "improving his lie" last week in a tournament in the Bahamas when he twice swept sand away from behind his ball before playing a shot.

Reed today accepted the incident had been worthy of a penalty, but insisted any inference that he "cheated" is wrong because his error had been unintentional.

While captain Tiger Woods was at pains to play down the saga, when Reed's time came to be one of six Americans in a later group news conference, members of the media ensured that wouldn't happen.

While his teammates each had only a couple of journalists, Reed was swamped with questions about his actions, his opponents' reactions and what he expects from a fired-up Australian gallery this week.

He was largely calm, but bristled when asked how it felt to be branded a cheat.

"It's not the right word to use," Reed snapped.

"At the end of the day, if you do something unintentionally that breaks the rules, it's not considered cheating and at the end of the day that's what it is.

"If you're intentionally trying to do something, that would be considered cheating, but I wasn't intentionally trying to improve a lie or anything like that."

Reed was clearly aware of comments made by two of Australia's International team representatives Marc Leishman and Cam Smith at last week's Australian Open.

"They're not supposed to talk good about us and we're not supposed to talk good about them leading into this event, that's normal," Reed said.

"At the end of the day, all I can do is control me and what comes out of my mouth. I can't control what comes out of theirs."

But then the first hint of sting in the tail.

"Of course they are going to speak out, because they want to get their crowds going and get on their side. That's the name of the game," he said.

"It goes from wanting to beat those guys to it now turning personal, so it's going to be a fun week."

That fun already spilled on to the course in today's practice session with not only a few wags in the Aussie crowd giving him a sledging preview, but teammate Justin Thomas mimicking Reed's "excavation" technique in one of Royal Melbourne's bunkers to the delight of those around the sand.

But it clearly wasn't forgotten by all.

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay each played down the impact the Reed saga would have on anyone in the American team, the latter a likely partner this week.

"I think it's overblown. He got his two-stroke penalty and it ended up costing him that playoff," Cantlay said.

"They are fired up and they are doing their best to maybe get their fans going and get their fans to heckle him a little bit.

"(But) I don't think it's that big of a distraction. And once the gun goes off on Thursday, I think it will just be golf. Everyone, no matter who it is, Patrick or anybody else, is expecting a fired-up crowd that's pulling for the International team.

"I don't think it adds anything or distracts us at all."

Schauffele said Reed would likely just "feed off" the attention.

"I don't know how he does it. I don't think I would be as comfortable doing it," the San Diegan said.

"He just does his thing. He's honest to himself to where he just ... he can play golf no matter what, through the fire, through the flame, call it whatever you want.

"I'm assuming he'll get heckled. I think he's ready for it."

But it's clearly not a dead issue in the opposition camp, where veteran Louis Oosthuizen threw more petrol on the fire, despite choosing his words carefully when asked about the damaged Reed's reputation might suffer.

"It doesn't look great for him, I can say that. It's going to be a tough one to get rid of," Oosthuizen said.

"(The incident) does not look great. (But an admission), that's something he needs to feel inside, and that's the only thing that we can probably say for that."

The Australian Open runner-up said Reed's actions would have copped far more internal scrutiny had he been an International team player.

"It would be something that everyone will address, the team would probably want to sit with him and talk it out if it was one of us.

"If it was someone on my team, I know a bunch of us would ask him straight the question, and then probably take it from there."

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