Despite its popularity across the globe, golf can never seem to escape the stigma of being, well, a bit boring. It’s played by middle-aged white men in spotty trousers apparently. It might be a strange thing to say in a town like this which is, of course, dominated and makes a living from this very sport. Walk far enough down North Street and you’ll reach the Dunvegan – the pub which, at least to my mind, marks the beginning of the golf dominated section of town.
I’m aware that I’m unlikely to change any opinions on the game itself. However, what is to my mind undoubtable, is that it has provided us with some of the most fascinating characters the sporting world will ever bear witness to. Tiger Woods is the obvious one although many non-golf fans are likely to think of his actions away from the course rather than on it.
Even non-sports fans could point at Lionel Messi and say he plays for Barcelona. They could see a mural of Serena Williams and go, “Aw yeah, the tennis player.” Yet, few golfers seem to hold the same status despite competing at the top of the world of professional sport. Yesterday though, the World Golf Championships in Mexico was won by American Patrick Reed, who beat his fellow compatriot Bryson DeChambeau.
Reed is a bit of an enigma. The one thing that is not debatable is his talent. After all, my writing of this article comes only 24 hours after the aforementioned victory in Mexico (his second WGC). He is also a major winner, after he picked up a coveted green jacket at the 2016 Masters tournament.
Where the controversy lies is in accusations of cheating. These accusations were originally brought to light in journalist Shane Ryan’s book, Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour. This reputation goes way back to the American’s college days. Originally attending the University of Georgia, he was accused of stealing from teammates and cheating on the course. As mentioned, his talent was undoubtable; his personality was what seemed to split opinion.
Looking for a fresh start, Reed transferred to Augusta State, but the dust never really settled with Ryan obtaining information on more accusations of cheating and difficulties with teammates.
Sport loves a good and bad guy narrative. His nickname might be the heroic “Captain America”, he does seem to fall on the latter side of that narrative. Despite what is portrayed as an inherent unlikability about Reed, any golf fan will likely concede that he has been involved in some of the game’s most exciting moments in recent years. His match against Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Ryder Cup was arguably the weekend’s most thrilling game in what was a dismal showing for Europe.
As a result, any time when Reed slips up or does something wrong, it feels like the media targets him more than anyone else. Remember when Phil Mickelson hit a moving ball at the US Open? Yet, because he falls into the ‘nice guy’ category in most people’s books, he seems to have escaped severe punishment. I don’t feel sorry for Reed, and if he has ever cheated, I would like to think he faced proper punishment, but just imagine if he had hit that moving ball.
Any golf fan will concede however that, love him or hate him, Reed has been part of some of golf’s most exciting moments in recent years. His match against Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Ryder Cup was arguably the weekend’s most thrilling game in what was a dismal showing for Europe.
We maybe don’t like sport’s ‘bad guys’ but there is something about them we can’t help but admire. Zlatan Ibrahimović. Kevin Pietersen. Pretty much any Real Madrid team in history. They split opinion but this does not hinder them from competing at the top level of professional sport. Was I angry when he turned and shushed Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Ryder Cup? Yes. It was gut-wrenching. Why was it gut-wrenching? Because, at the time, all I knew about him was that he was meant to be a cheat. Did it make me think any less of him? With hindsight, probably not.
It’s a cliché but there are two sides to every story. Reed has always strenuously denied the accusations and, when interviewed, he seems indifferent about people’s impressions of him. Our own impressions of sportspersons come from the media and, in writing this article, I myself contribute to that. This is not aimed at making any given reader like or dislike Patrick Reed. Rather, I simply want to show that behind the characters that play this famous game, there’s far more than old men in spotty trousers.