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December 10, 2019

Golfer's Don't Cheat

One of the first things that beginning golfers learn about golf is that it is a self-regulating sport. There are rules to follow, but it is your job to play by the rules. Cheaters are singled out and ostracized. "Once a cheater, always a cheater." Once you acquire that reputation, it is almost impossible to lose it. That is why I was astonished at Patrick Reed's blatant breaking of the rules at last week's Tiger Woods Hero Challenge golf tournament in the Bahamas.

To review what happened on the 11th hole during the third round. Reed's drive landed in a plugged lie in sand in a waste area off the fairway. A waste area is not a bunker, so you are allowed to take practice swings and can touch the sand. You are not allowed to affect or improve you lie in any manner. Patrick took two practice backswings that obviously moved sand away from the back of his ball that dramatically improved his lie and ability to hit a decent shot. This was viewed on television and it was clear that he broke the rule and improved his lie. He was assessed a two stroke penalty. If it was determined that his "intent" was to deliberately alter his lie, then the penalty would have been disqualification. Reed stated that he didn't realize that he brushed and moved sand on his two practice swings that altered his lie. Golf is a game of honor. The rules official can't look into a player's mind, so he must take what he says as fact. The player has to live with knowing if he lied or not.

Patrick Reed is a major champion with his Masters win in 2018. It was not a popular win amongst his peers and the general public. He is seen to be arrogant, aloof, controversial, and selfish with little regard for others. His college career started at the University of Georgia where he didn't get along with coaches and teammates that resulted with him being dismissed from the golf team. Although never officially a reason, it is rumored that he was caught cheating. His reputation on the Tour is that he is not to be trusted.

I was good friends with Dave Hill in the 1980's. He confided to me that there were six known high ranking players on the PGA Tour that were cheaters. He told me that all the players and Tour officials knew it and they would be watched like a hawk. If caught, they would have unexplained absences from the Tour and fined. However the public never found out, because of it would reflect badly on the image of PGA Tour and the game.

I don't buy for a minute that Patrick Reed didn't realize that he improved his lie. You're a professional golfer with extraordinary touch and feel. Of course you would know when you are brushing sand on your take-away! I think the action was deliberate. I have known of Reed's cheater reputation and have given him the benefit of the doubt that he had grown up and was a changed person that wouldn't purposely cheat. Sometimes, if that's you inclination, you can't help yourself. I am sorry for him, but I will never trust him or root for him in the future.

Golf is a game of integrity. There's an old saying that goes, "Golf doesn't build character; it reveals it." I would say that 90% of golfers are honest golfers that wouldn't cheat to win a bet or tournament. What Patrick Reed did will follow him throughout the rest of his career. His personality is such that he can live with himself and this might not affected him in the long run. But for me the leopard has shown his spots again and he has lost my respect and trust.

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