MELBOURNE — The strange on-course meeting between Patrick Reed and Cameron Smith on Thursday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club was so difficult to characterize that one of the two protagonists still is befuddled by it.
After winning a half-point on Friday in foursomes with Sungjae Im of South Korea, Smith was asked about the wordless encounter between he and Reed on Thursday morning. Playing in four-ball with Webb Simpson, Reed converted a birdie on the fifth hole. As he made his way to the sixth tee, he spied Smith, who was sitting out the session but there to encourage International teammates Hideki Matsuyama and C.T. Pan.
Reed reportedly made a beeline for Smith. According to Australian Golf Digest what ensued was this: “[the two] were seen 'deliberately' bumping into each other in a clash of shoulders, with one witness referring to it as a 'love tap' that drew a wry grin from Smith.”
Though a day had passed, the young Aussie still struggled to describe what happened.
“Yeah, I'm not really sure what it was about, to be honest,” Smith, 26, said. “I mean, I haven't said anything wrong. I just don't want to really talk about it anymore. I think it's all said and done. I've said my bit. He's said his bit. Let's just get on with our job and try and play the Presidents Cup.”
So it doesn't sound like it was exactly a love tap, or even a playful tussle. Smith certainly didn't go out of his way to bump into his American peer, with whom he had been friendly until recently.
Smith has been one of the more outspoken critics of Reed after the American bulldog incurred a two-stroke penalty for improving his lie in a waste area at the Hero World Challenge. Smith repeated his criticism earlier this week and said he hoped that the home fans reserved a few choice words for the Texan this week. Which they have, heckling Reed almost continually the first two days.
Smith just wants to move on. Playing on Friday helped. He was eager to get into the action, and he didn’t need a shoulder shiver from Reed to get fired up. “I was pretty amped up yesterday, to be honest. I did an early practice session, and went out there all day, watched the boys,” he said. “I couldn't believe how long golf took while you're watching it.”
That line drew a few laughs.
Yeah, controversy aside, he’s enjoying his first Presidents Cup. When he did finally step on the tee, he played well—not surprising because he knows Royal Melbourne rather thoroughly. He and Im jumped ahead with birdies on the first two holes, and it took a Herculean effort in the closing stretch for Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland to eke out the tie.
“It was good. It was a long match,” Smith said. “I thought we had them there for a while. The way they played the last four or five holes was really impressive, two really good guys. Typically we've struggled in foursomes, so to get away with a halve, I mean, isn't so bad. I know we were looking good there for awhile, but I think we'll take confidence into the next couple days.”
Smith will be sitting again in four-ball Saturday morning, but will again cheer on his teammates and soak up an atmosphere that is new to him. He is enjoying every minute of it. “It’s just been awesome so far, everything I thought.”
Who knows? When it’s all over, and if the Internationals somehow manage to pull off the upset, perhaps he can offer Patrick Reed a shoulder to cry on.