MAMARONECK, N.Y. — Officially, there are no spectators at this week’s U.S. Open. But several makeshift bleachers have been erected in backyards around the course, where Winged Foot’s neighbors have a front-row look at the action.
It was just after 3 p.m. when the final pairing of Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed arrived at No. 4, which meant the lawn parties had been in full swing for hours. Several fans, emboldened by the fence separating them from the action and the cocktails in their hands, started cheering raucously when DeChambeau smashed driver off the tee. His tee shot missed the fairway left, but he gave a big wave and smile in response.
The greeting was more tepid for Reed; a few cheered him on as he striped one down the center. But a couple shouts pierced the afternoon stillness.
“Hey Patty Reed, why’s your caddie carrying a shovel?” one yelled. The other shouts don’t merit repeating on this family-friendly website. The “shovel” jab was a reference to Reed’s waste-area saga, which started with a two-stroke penalty at last year’s Hero World Challenge and continued at the Presidents Cup, where things eventually got messy.
But at the Presidents Cup, the atmosphere was rowdy. Here it was silent. There’s no way Reed could have missed the hecklers because there was very literally nothing else to hear.
Reed has a complex relationship with golf fans. He has some rabid supporters, to be sure, but he has also waded into controversial waters over and over in recent years. As a result, he has become one of the game’s most divisive stars. It’s easy to assume that this would bother him. On NBC’s broadcast, Paul Azinger suggested that both Reed and DeChambeau would have an easier time contending at a fan-free U.S. Open; they’d have fewer distractions.
Rory McIlroy agreed with Azinger after his round: “Look, you’ve got Bryson and P-Reed out in the final group, and any other U.S. Open final grouping you’ve got those two guys, things are going to be said and tempers are going to flare.”
But as McIlroy knows firsthand, Reed has always thrived off of any attention, particularly the negative sort. He has never lost a singles match at the Ryder Cup, for example, and has responded to recent controversies — at the Hero or the Presidents Cup, for example — with terrific golf the very next day.
After Reed made a hole-in-one in Thursday’s opening round, he rued the lack of fans.
“Up here in New York, the fans are amazing,” he said. “You go ahead and you hole out from the fairway, you make a hole-in-one, the fans will just go crazy — it was unfortunate the fans weren’t here because that would have been an awesome experience.”
But back to Saturday afternoon: Reed dialed back in for his approach shot and hit a low, piercing approach shot that skipped up to the back tier and settled just four feet from the hole. Reed stared down the approach, he knocked the dirt off his club and he gave a little wave to the crowd. A perfect response.
Reed finished off his birdie putt, which drew applause from a more favorable cheering section behind the 4th green. As he walked off the green, he tossed his ball to the crowd, a final reminder that when hecklers try to get to Patrick Reed, they often have the opposite effect.
Reed’s performance coach Josh Gregory was looking on; he shook his head. “They can keep talking,” he said. “He’ll keep doing that.”