Golf has had many rivalries – Jack Nicklaus vs. Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson to name but two – but few have the drama and intrigue that is defining the current feud between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed.
McIlroy pipped Reed to victory in an enthralling finish to the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on Monday as he sealed a triumphant end to the past few days, which have been overshadowed by a row between the pair, since dubbed ‘Teegate.’
A superb birdie putt at the last hole clinched a 15th DP World Tour victory for McIlroy in his first event of the year, his 19-under 269 enough to hold off a blistering final-round charge from his American rival, who finished a stroke behind the Northern Irishman.
This was a drama that began before a competitive ball had even been struck at the Emirates Golf Club, with McIlroy admitting to ignoring the world No. 57 at the range on the eve of the tournament, prompting Reed to allegedly throw a tee towards his rival.
“If you’re going to act like an immature little child then you might as well be treated like one,” said Reed.
Discussing the incident last week, McIlroy said that he had “not felt the need to acknowledge” Reed after being issued with a subpoena by the American’s lawyers on Christmas Eve.
Reed’s attorney Larry Klayman told CNN he has an anti-trust trade regulation lawsuit against the PGA Tour, for which was McIlroy was subpoenaed.
The lawsuit was filed by Klayman for himself “and other golf fans and consumers under Florida competition law,” the attorney added.
A spokesperson for the PGA Tour told CNN that they do “not comment on pending litigation as a matter of practice” when asked for comment on the lawsuit.
In August 2022, LIV golfer Reed filed a defamation lawsuit against the Golf Channel and commentator Brandel Chamblee, claiming that defamatory remarks had been made on behalf of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour regarding his involvement in the Saudi-backed series.
The lawsuit was dismissed by a Florida federal judge in November, before Klayman filed an amended complaint against Chamblee and Golf Channel in December.
The Golf Channel did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Reed has also brought another amended defamation complaint against a number of golf journalists and media organizations.
McIlroy, who has previously criticized LIV Golf for “ripping apart” men’s professional golf, did not immediately respond to CNN’s request asking for more details about the subpoena.
“I’m living in reality, I don’t know where he’s [Reed] living,” said McIlroy, ahead of the Dubai tournament.
“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 of thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting him [to file] a lawsuit,” added McIlroy.
The duo were level on the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the event, tied two shots shy of the leading pack, before an electric third round from McIlroy saw him take a commanding three-stroke advantage into the final day.
Reed returned to the clubhouse Sunday four shots adrift of the leader, yet not before being embroiled in another controversy.
‘Teegate’ became ‘Treegate’ following an incident at the 17th hole of the 2018 Masters’ winners round, whereby his opening drive nestled in a palm tree.
A binocular search by rule officials and Reed ensued to find the ball, with the golfer potentially having to go back to tee should the ball fail to be identified.
Citing his unique markings on the ball, Reed could be heard on TV broadcasts telling officials he was “100%” certain that the correct ball had been located and was subsequently given a penalty drop from the base of the palm.
However subsequent TV replays appeared to show that the ball had settled in a different tree. Reed went on to bogey the par-four hole.
“I hit that tee shot, I didn’t even see those palms,” Reed told reporters regarding the incident.
“It’s an unfortunate break, but at the same time I hit the line solid. I hit it right down the line I was looking. That’s all you’re going to ask for. You’re going to get bad breaks once in a while. You just have to bounce back from them.”
A statement released by the DP World Tour said: “Two on-course referees and several marshals identified that Patrick Reed’s ball had become lodged in a specific tree following his tee shot on 17.
“The DP World Tour chief referee joined the player in the area and asked him to identify his distinctive ball markings. Using binoculars, the chief referee was satisfied that a ball with those markings was lodged in the tree.
“To clarify, the player was not asked to specify the tree but to identify his distinctive ball markings to confirm it was his ball,” the statement added.
McIlroy’s sweet success
Playing in a LIV Golf cap, Reed needed a fast start to the final round and delivered emphatically, rattling off five birdies and an eagle to hunt down and nudge ahead of McIlroy at the 13th hole.
An instant birdie response from the World No. 1, playing a hole behind, set up a grandstand finish at the Majlis course.
When Reed finally faltered at the 16th, missing his par putt to register his only bogey of the round, McIlroy took full advantage with a birdie at the penultimate hole.
Knowing he needed to repeat the feat to avoid a playoff, Northern Irishman McIlroy rolled home from 14 feet as a stone-faced Reed watched on via a clubhouse TV screen.
An emphatic roar and fist pump followed from McIlroy before his on-green interview. Quizzed on whether the week’s earlier incidents had motivated him, the four-time major champion did not explicitly name Reed but admitted the win was “sweeter than it should be or needs to be.”
“I think mentally today was probably one of the toughest rounds I’ve ever had to play because it would be really easy to let your emotions get in the way,” said McIlroy.
“I just had to really concentrate on focusing on myself, forget who was up there on the leaderboard, and I did that really, really well.”