Patrick Reed needed a 12-foot birdie putt to win at Kapalua and return at least some attention to his bullish brand of golf. It was an untimely miss in so many ways.
Not only did it give Justin Thomas a third chance in the playoff, which he won with a sublime sand wedge to 3 feet for birdie, it was enough time for one fan to shout the word that so many others have only whispered.
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The man didn’t say it until the putt on the final hole – a birdie Reed knew he needed to keep playing – was halfway to the hole. But it was ugly. It was far worse than another word often thought but rarely screamed – choke – because it speaks more to character than performance.
In golf, only one is fleeting.
Reed glared up at the stands. NBC announcer Dan Hicks seized on it immediately, and before long Golf Channel was rolling the tape.
Thomas says he heard nothing, perhaps caught up in his own duties, which was making a 3-foot putt into a strong gust to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Next up for Reed is the Sony Open this week in Honolulu, another chill crowd, though that’s what everyone thought about Kapalua. Still to come is Pebble Beach and the TPC Sawgrass, Harding Park for the PGA Championship and Winged Foot for the U.S. Open.
Reed really dug himself a hole in the Bahamas, and there’s no easy way out. It started with a shot from the sand in a waste area left of the 11th fairway at the Hero World Challenge, the unofficial event hosted by Tiger Woods as a holiday gift to 18 players who get $100,000 for finishing last. Video shows Reed using his wedge to brush away sand behind his ball – twice – before his shot. That’s improving his lie, and when shown a replay, Reed accepted the two-shot penalty. He really had no choice.
He did have a choice in how to explain it.
Instead, he claimed his club was far enough behind the ball – holding his hands 8 inches apart – and that he didn’t feel it would have affected his lie. That was before he got into the “camera angle” defence, which induced as many snickers as raised eyebrows. Missing was a mea culpa. And it’s too late for a mulligan.
The reaction in Australia the following week at the Presidents Cup was predictable because the violation was fresh and the competition was a team event, and Reed was on the visiting team. The heckling was harsh, and Reed didn’t help matters by pretending to use a shovel after winning a hole. Whether the punishment fits the crime is up for debate.