NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas — A day after Patrick Reed was hit with a two-stroke penalty for improving his line of play in a bunker on Friday during the third round of the Hero World Challenge, bunkergate remained a hot topic.
In the hours after a television camera showed that Reed twice cleared sand from behind his ball as he took practice swings in a waste bunker on the par-5 11th hole at Albany on Friday, a grainy video surfaced on social media, showing him doing something similar in the same tournament five years earlier. It wasn’t clear then whether Reed brushed away any sand, and he wasn’t hit with a penalty, either.
In Australia, where Reed will play next week’s Presidents Cup, Marc Leishman, a member of the International team, was asked during this week’s Australian Open whether he thinks Reed would be taunted by fans over the incident. He told reporters, yes.
“There’s opportunities there,” Leishman said. “He's definitely opened a door, and he's brought it upon himself. As long as it’s not disrespectful. You never want to cross the line, but I think there's some pretty good ammo there.”
Leishman also confirmed that he saw the incident as well.
“It looked pretty ordinary, to be honest,” he said. “That’s about all I've got to say on that, it didn't look too good for him.”
Cameron Smith, another International Presidents Cup team member, also felt that Reed has opened himself up to criticism. “If you make a mistake maybe once you can maybe understand, but to give a bit of a bull***t response like the camera angle … I mean, that’s pretty up there,” Smith told Fox Sports in Australia. “I hope the crowd absolutely gives it to not only him but everyone [on the U.S. team] next week.”
Not that Reed seemed distracted by any of it. If anything, he seemed to thrive in the controversy.
On Saturday, the 29-year-old seven-time PGA Tour winner and 2018 Masters champ birdied two of his first three holes to climb within one of the lead.
He found trouble on the sixth hole, however, when he again was in a waste bunker. His only problem this time was that he hit his next shot into the scrub and was forced to take an unplayable lie. He bogeyed the hole to fall out of contention before rallying with five birdies on the back nine to finish in third, two strokes back of winner Henrik Stenson.
“I haven't been paying attention on what's been going on in the media,” Reed said following his final-round 66. “It was just something that I'm going out there to play the best golf I can. At the end of the day, while I was there playing the hole that I really did [make] any kind of rules infraction, but then afterwards seeing it on camera, [Vice President of Rules] Slugger [White] and I sat down and Slugger said that you have to take two strokes. After seeing it on camera and seeing sand move, obviously it's a penalty. So at that point I had to accept it and move on. The last thing you can do is let it dwell, especially when you have 18 holes left to go because you still have a chance to win a golf tournament.
“At the end of the day I wasn't intending to improve a lie or anything like that. I didn't feel like I was doing anything that was improving a lie, but then when you saw it on camera, because of that camera angle, they said that the sand was moving, and when the sand moves like that, it's a penalty.”
Asked if he’s worried whether the incident could become a distraction next week at Royal Melbourne, Reed said no.
This week of course wasn’t the first time Reed has found himself in the center of a controversy.
In the hours after the Americans lost to Europe in last year’s Ryder Cup outside Paris, Reed told the New York Times the decision-making process at the Ryder Cup was a "buddy system” and questioned why he wasn’t paired at all with Jordan Spieth, with whom he was previously successful. Reed went 1-2 at the Ryder Cup, losing both matches with Tiger Woods.
Woods, who will serve as a playing captain for the U.S. next week, used one of his captain’s picks to select Reed for this year’s Presidents Cup after Reed failed to earn one of the eight automatic spots. He also said he doesn’t expect this latest incident with Reed to be a cause for concern next week.
“When it comes right down to it, we'll just get ready to play,” Woods said. “Whatever Patrick has put out there, he's focused like he is in every Cup, he just goes out and gets his point. Next week will be no different.”
Though Reed said he’ll be more careful when it comes to the next time he finds himself in a similar situation as he did at the Hero, he also said that he feels like he gets a raw deal in moments like this.
“Of course I do,” he said. “But at the end of the day you can only control what you do. You can’t control everyone else. As long as I go out there and...live life the way I feel like I’m supposed to, that’s all I can do.”