MELBOURNE, Australia – The Patrick Reed Presidents Cup saga has gone from bad to worse.
It happened during Saturday's morning fourball when Reed's caddie, Kessler Karain, was involved in an altercation with a fan, and will not return to caddie for Sunday's final-round singles match with C.T. Pan. That was about the least the PGA Tour could do.
"I respect the Tour's decision," Reed said. "We are all focused on winning the Presidents Cup tomorrow."
This story had a sense of inevitability about it. Reed was already arguably golf's most polarizing figure before he was involved in a rules infraction last week that led to Cameron Smith accusing him of "cheating," and he and Marc Leishman all but called for the crowds to heckle Reed.
The fans obliged and booed Reed mercilessly at the first tee and cracked jokes, but most of them were of the harmless nature, such as calling him Mr. Sandman and the like. Still, Reed showed signs of cracking under the pressure on Friday when he resorted to a mock shovel motion twice with his putter, in response to the continued barbs.
One teammate after another has said that Reed, who has thrived in the role of golf's villain, wanted to be pelted with boos and catcalls. It is fuel for the fire that burns inside him. It backfired as he went 0-3. Apparently, Karain, his brother-in-law, doesn't have as thick a skin.
"We have been known for having fun with some good banter, but after hearing several fans in Australia for 3 days some had taken it too far, I had enough," Karain said in a statement. "And this gentleman was one of them."
There's really no defense for a spectator to say, "you (expletive) suck," so we won't pretend to try. But Karain can't jump off a cart, shove him, and return fire with his own array of expletives. This is a classic example of two wrongs don't make a right.
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"This Aussie crowd, okay, they got a little bit boisterous this afternoon with a couple of beers, but which crowd doesn't?" International Team Captain Ernie Els said. "You take it and you move on."
This is a byproduct of gates opening at 7 a.m. and alcohol sales not much later. Beer-swilling fans have begun to treat Ryder and Presidents Cups both at home and abroad as if attending a football game.
"There's people who have had a lot to drink and have gone over the top," Woods said.
But like Els, Woods has come to expect that fans are going to root for the home team.
"It's part of the deal," Woods said.
Els interrupted the questioning to continue his thoughts on the crowds. His point was that this wasn't an isolated incident and that there's no place in the game for the way Karain reacted.
"I've played in many Presidents Cups. I've played in the U.S. many times. If you look back at New York (site of the 2017 Presidents Cup) and how these players were treated in New York, this crowd is pretty quiet. I mean, we just get treated the same wherever you go as an away game, there's some heckling going on and we all know that, and you prepare for that, and that's just the way it goes," he said. "We shut up and we get on with things. That's what we did in New York. So it's part of the game. … it happens. We, as professionals, we move on."
It's happened to Els, it's happened to Woods, and it will continue to happen to Reed, and whoever is caddying for him in the future. Karain, in one of the great non-apologies, capped his statement by saying: "The most harm done was a little spilled beer, which I'm more than happy to reimburse him for."
That comment is as misguided as his boss sticking by his claim that a different camera angle would have shown that he didn't improve his lie in a bunker. Harm was done. His actions were a stain on the Presidents Cup, and the Tour was right to eliminate his participation from the final day of the event.
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