Rory McIlroy has insisted he was well within his rights to ignore Patrick Reed on a Dubai driving range after reports surfaced that the American had tossed a golf tee at the world No 1 in disgust. McIlroy revealed he was served court papers by Reed at his Florida home on Christmas Eve.
Reed approached McIlroy on Monday at the Dubai Desert Classic but was blanked by the Northern Irishman. McIlroy was unaware of any subsequent object-throwing but used his pre-tournament press conference to explain his stance towards Reed.
“Patrick came up to say hello and I didn’t really want him to,” McIlroy said. “From my recollection, that was it. I didn’t see a tee. I didn’t feel a tee. Obviously someone else saw that. But it’s definitely a storm in a teacup. I can’t believe it’s actually turned into a story, it’s nothing.
“I was submitted by his lawyer on Christmas Eve. Trying to have a nice time with my family and someone shows up at your doorstep and delivers that, you’re not going to take that well.
“I’m living in reality, I don’t know where he’s living. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake.”
Reed has launched a defamation case against the Golf Channel and its analyst, Brandel Chamblee, whom he alleges conspired with the PGA Tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, to defame him. Reed now plays the majority of his golf on the rebel LIV tour. The 2018 Masters champion’s lawyer Larry Klayman has also alleged that McIlroy, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods are co-conspirators in the PGA Tour’s antitrust scheme to destroy LIV.
McIlroy added: “I was down by my bag and he came up to me. I was busy working and sort of doing my practice. I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge him.
“I didn’t see a tee coming my direction at all, but apparently that’s what happened. And if roles were reversed and I’d have thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting a lawsuit.”
Speaking after McIlroy, Reed said: “We all know where it came from, being part of LIV. Since my tees are Team Aces LIV tees I flicked him one. It was kind of a funny shot back. Funny how a small little flick has turned into basically me stabbing him and throwing a tee at him.
“It’s unfortunate because we’ve always had a good relationship. But it is one of those things, if you’re going to act like an immature little child then you might as well be treated like one.”
This bizarre affair dominated discussion before McIlroy’s first competitive start of 2023. There was, naturally, also chat about LIV after it emerged the circuit’s commissioner, Greg Norman, is to be handed extra powers. LIV has been hit by two high-profile resignations since its maiden season ended in October.
“If the chief executive doesn’t have an executive team, I don’t know how strong that is,” McIlroy said. “He can’t do it himself. He needs to rely on a team just like all of us rely on teams to do things. If you are sort of operating solo, it starts to get pretty difficult.”
Last year saw McIlroy emerge as the regular, unofficial spokesperson for golf’s traditional tours as LIV attempted to coax players towards Saudi Arabian millions.
“There’s no point in just being a mouthpiece when you can’t back that up by playing good golf and showing people the rewards people can have out here if they are playing well,” said the 33-year-old. “It’s a merit-based system. That’s the thing that I’ve always struggled with: if a five-year-old boy or girl know that they work hard and they shoot the scores, there’s a merit-based system in golf all the way through junior golf, amateur golf, all the way up to the professional level and they can make it to the top levels of the game.
“This is the one thing that’s come into the game that has disrupted that. It’s not a merit-based system.”
Two wins in as many PGA Tour tournaments for Jon Rahm has reignited discussion over the validity of golf’s ranking system. Rahm is currently the world No 3. Rather than stoke the debate, McIlroy heaped praises on the Spaniard.
“We all know Jon is one of the best players in the world,” said McIlroy. “Whether there’s a one beside his name or a two beside his name, it doesn’t really matter. He’s won four of his last six events. He’s playing some of the best golf he’s played in his career. He’s not had a long career but all of his career, he’s played consistently at a very, very high level. It has been an amazing start to the year.”