Who says the Presidents Cup is a pathetic copy of the Ryder Cup because it does not have any needle? This week it certainly has an edge with Patrick Reed telling his International opponents that they have made the match “personal” after accusing him of “cheating”.
While the game expected the spotlight to shine almost exclusively on Tiger Woods at Royal Melbourne - as the 15-time major winner experiences his first taste of US captaincy - instead it is the man who likes to refer to himself as “Captain America” who has monopolised the build-up.
Reed was penalised two shots for illegally improving his lie in last week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, but although the video footage of him moving sand in a waste bunker with a practice swing is damning, he has maintained that it was not intentional and that a misleading camera angle was to blame for the ensuing social media storm.
Yet players in Ernie Els’s International team plainly believe otherwise with the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman declaring that Reed will “get what he deserves” from the home galleries this week.
However Australia’s Cam Smith has been the most outspoken, saying: “If you make a mistake maybe once, you could maybe understand but to give a bit of a b------- response like the camera angle… that’s pretty up there.”
When asked if Reed will be targeted in the four-day encounter that starts on Wednesday night, Smith replied: “I hope so. I don’t have any sympathy for anyone that cheats.”
Reed had heard about those comments when he faced the media on Tuesday and far from backing down, the 2018 Masters champion chose to raise the tension yet further with his provocative response.
“Suddenly it’s gone from wanting to beat those guys to it now turning personal,” Reed said. “So it’s going to be a fun week.”
Woods has backed Reed, calling him “a great kid who handled a tough upbringing well”. He confirmed that he spoke to Reed about the incident on the flight down under, but revealed it was only a brief conversation. It is clear that nothing Woods told Reed persuaded him to take an alternative tack than outright denial.
“It [cheating] is not the right word to use,” Reed said. “If you do something unintentionally that breaks the rules, it’s not considered cheating… If you’re intentionally trying to do something, that would be considered cheating, but I wasn’t intentionally trying to improve a lie or anything like that.”