He’s got the skills. He’s got the confidence. He’s got the bravado. He’s a proven PGA winner, including the 2018 Masters and most recently the WGC in Mexico. Yet there’s something missing with Patrick Reed. And that is integrity, the oil that keeps the engine of professional tournament golf running smoothly, and a trait that cannot be self-proclaimed, measured only by a player’s actions. Such a trait cannot be faked until you make it. Such a trait cannot be bluffed like a lousy poker hand. Sergio didn’t cheat when he spit into a cup after a botched hole, but he lacked integrity and respect for the game.
Simply said, Reed improved his lie during a tournament, and then lied about it after the camera caught him doing it. Even an amateur, playing in his club championship, has to follow the rules. Even in recreational play, with just a beer on the line, as long as whoever is vying for that beer agrees to the stated rules, it is not permissible to falsify a score card, to hit a second ball, or to improve a lie. But in a pro tournament, with fortune and fame on the line, such behavior is particularly forbidden, and, if detected, can be heavily penalized.
Unlike most sports, golf is a game of honor where participants are expected to monitor themselves for infractions of the rules. So when Patrick Reed was clearly caught on camera improving his lie in a waste area, twice as he prepared for the shot, he was penalized two strokes for doing so, not by himself, as would have been expected, but by officials. He was leading the tournament at the time, and a lot was at stake.
He was roundly criticized by his peers and the press, but he held to his claim that he didn’t do it, that his view of the situation was different from that of the camera. He went to the President’s Cup in Australia with that dark cloud over his head, and was heckled and booed mercilessly. Still, though the camera clearly showed him building up sand behind a wretched lie thus making the shot easier, Reed held firm and would not admit any blame whatsoever. In a waste area, unlike an official bunker, touching the sand inadvertently is permitted, but intentionally improving one’s lie is not.
Social media and the official press howled, as did a number of his peers. Peter Kostis, the retired golf analyst with CBS, reported in print that he’d seen Reed improve his lie on at least four other occasions. Cameron Smith, the young Australian phenom, very honestly and boldly tweeted about Reed’s actions, using the “c” word when no one else would, “I have no sympathy for anyone who cheats.” And four-time major winner, Brooks Koepka said during a podcast, “I don’t know what he was doing, building sandcastles in the sand, but you know where your club is.”
So, Patrick, either honor this game, or get out. You’re not doing the game, your fellow competitors, or yourself any good by lying about or mischaracterizing or failing to own your behavior. The game is what it is because of the integrity it has built for the last 600 or so years. Your need to build a career through deceit and deception doesn’t fit into the fabric of the game. For when a stitch of the embroidery is out of place, that stitch is the first thing viewers look and cringe at. You have the ability to right the ship and admit your error. You have the ability to apologize. And you have the ability to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Fans, and particularly kids, would appreciate that. So regardless of your abilities to play this daunting game, hone the even more daunting ability to play the game with honor and integrity.
Otherwise, it’s time to go sell shoes or something. But even there, whatever you do in life, do it honorably and truthfully.