#AskAlan mailbag: What was Patrick Reed REALLY thinking when he was penalized at the Hero?

December 12, 2019

In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck fields your questions on Patrick Reed’s rules controversy, what warrants a disqualification on the PGA Tour, the Presidents Cup and more.

Alan, Should Patrick Reed go full IDGAF mode and embrace the villain role or would hiring an elite PR firm be worth the time and effort? Here’s one idea of redemption: give all future annual Masters earnings towards revitalization efforts for the town of Augusta. Thanks. #AskAlan -@forearmshivers

Reed went rogue long ago. He answers only to Team Reed, which is to say, his wife and mother-in-law. The easiest feel-good move in the world would have been to donate his tainted winnings at the Hero to the various relief efforts in the Bahamas but Team Reed even whiffed that one. At this point we pretty well know who Reed is; would some glitzy P.R. campaign change anything? I think not. But to your point, Reed doesn’t make an entirely satisfying villain because of his martyr complex. Him playing the victim takes some of the air out of the whole thing. Poulter at least has the good sense to preen around and have a little fun with the crowd, even though deep down he is desperate to be liked, too.

What’s most likely: Reed intended to cheat? Him moving sand twice was an accident? Or just careless? Was Reed even aware of his own intentions? And — to what extent should the answer affect penalty on the course (and proverbial lashing off the course)? -@zuzanryan

This is more the province of a psychoanalyst than a sportswriter but allow me to wade in anyway. Given the extraordinary feel Reed has in his fingertips it seems impossible he didn’t know he moved so much sand… twice. And that he performed a large-scale excavation not once but twice makes it impossible to believe it was an accident. When you are at the top of the leaderboard in a glitzy event with a tiny field, and Tiger is lurking, you have to know every move you make is being watched and/or televised. It’s not like Reed was deep in the woods and thought he was perhaps hidden from view. Therefore, I don’t think he walked into that wide-open bunker with a camera crew a few feet away with a gameplan of breaking the rules to improve his lie. I think it just kind of happened in the moment. Something short-circuited in his brain… or his soul. Was it driven by a sense of entitlement? A ruthless need to win? An outsider’s longing to be accepted? A rascal’s desire to get over on the competition? I doubt even Reed can answer these questions.

#AskAlan In baseball they suspend players for cheating (ie, corked bat, scuffing the ball). At what point should the Tour suspend a player for intentionally breaking the rules and will they grow the huevos to do it? -@TheTexasSteve

Intent is key here. Until we have an x-ray machine of the soul, how do you prove that? Players can always fall back on a more benign explanation for these misdeeds and the rules officials are forced to take it at face value. It falls on the press and fans on social media to enforce a kind of mob justice.

Should Tiger send a message by only playing Patrick Reed in the required one match before Sunday singles? -@patton_orr

That can’t happen because then he would be repudiating his own decision to pick Reed for the team! In this scenario it’s also not fair to make Tiger the arbiter of morality. His job is to win the Presidents Cup. To ostracize one of his own players and divide the team room would obviously be counter to that goal.

Is Slugger White more concerned with upholding the rules or protecting the image of the Tour and players? -@jking_NY

No doubt we could use new blood among the rule officials, outsiders who do not feel so beholden to the players and their PGA Tour masters. It’s a problematic arrangement because Slugger and the Tour’s other rules czars are employees of the Tour, which pay them generous salaries. Upholding the players’ images, and that of the Tour, is important to them.

Why is the Presidents Cup still an event? -@TheGhostOfHogan

Hey, I enjoy bagging on the Cup as much as anybody, but the bottom line is this: would you rather enjoy two dozen of the best players in the world engaged in match play at Royal Melbourne or be forced to watch something vapid and pointless, like football? I, for one, am happy we have compelling golf during an otherwise dead time of year.

Royal Melbourne looks to be in suburbia/a neighborhood. What’s the vibe down there? -@BrianChipper

The Sand Belt has become such a mythologized corner of the golf world it is jarring to discover it is, in fact, smack in the heart of suburbia. But Royal Melbourne is a sprawling property, with two sprawling courses, a huge clubhouse and large range. So once you’re on the property it feels quite immersive and you have no sense of the burbs all around you. But Royal Melbourne’s location does affect the competition: one of the primary reasons the Composite Course is used is because a busy roadway bisects the West Course, separating the 13th-16th holes from all the others. When the boys and I played Royal Melbourne in November an older gent in his car actually flipped us the bird because apparently we were too slow crossing the street. It was hilarious. By including holes from the East Course into the Composite there is no need to cross that road, thus reducing the chances of an international incident.

Who are your five players on your pre-All Decade team for the 20s? #AskAlan -@coachkirbychs

Oooh, good one. I’ll take Rahm, J. Thomas, Morikawa, Spieth and Rasmus Højgaard.

Sergio and Bryson wedging bunkers to death! Phil opting out of one desert in Phoenix for another in Saudi Arabia! Reed digging himself into an even deeper hole in the Bahamas! A Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne! Tell me: is 2019 the biggest year for sand and sand content, ever? -@ANTIFAldo

No, that would be 1979, when Bo Derek was chilling on beaches and was front and center in every red-blooded male’s imagination.