Rory McIlroy has maintained he was fully within his right to ignore Patrick Reed at a driving range in Dubai after reports surfaced that the American threw a golf tee at the world number 1 in disgust. McIlroy revealed that Reed delivered court documents to him at his Florida home on Christmas Eve.
Reed approached McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic on Monday but was knocked out by the Northern Irishman. McIlroy was unaware of throwing objects, but used his pre-tournament press conference to explain his position to Reed.
“Patrick came up to say hello and I really didn’t want that,” said McIlroy. “As far as I can remember, that was it. I didn’t see a T-shirt. I felt no tee. Apparently someone else saw that. But it sure is a storm in a teacup. I can’t believe it actually turned into a story, it’s nothing.
“I was summoned by his lawyer on Christmas Eve. I’m trying to have a good time with my family and someone shows up and delivers, you’re not going to take that well.
“I live in reality, I don’t know where he lives. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake.”
Reed has filed a defamation lawsuit against Golf Channel and its analyst, Brandel Chamblee, who he alleges conspired with PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan to defame him. Reed now plays most of his golf on the Rebel LIV tour. The attorney for 2018 Masters champion Larry Klayman has also alleged that McIlroy, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods are co-conspirators in the PGA Tour’s antitrust plan to destroy LIV.
McIlroy added: “I was sitting by my bag and he came over to me. I was busy working and busy with my practice. I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge him.
“I didn’t see a tee coming my way at all, but apparently it did. And if the tables were turned and I threw that tee at him, I’d expect a lawsuit.
Speaking after McIlroy, Reed said: “We all know where it came from, being part of LIV. Since my T-shirts are Team Aces LIV T-shirts, I flashed one for him. It was kind of a funny shot back. Funny how a little cutscene turned into basically me stabbing him and throwing a tee at him.
“It’s a shame because we’ve always had a good relationship. But it’s one of those things, if you’re going to act like an immature little kid, you might as well be treated like a kid.”
This bizarre affair dominated discussion ahead of McIlroy’s first competitive start of 2023. Of course, LIV was also talked about after it emerged that circuit commissioner Greg Norman would be given additional powers. LIV has been hit with two high-profile layoffs since its first season ended in October.
“If the CEO doesn’t have an executive team, I don’t know how strong that is,” McIlroy said. ‘He can’t do it himself. He has to rely on a team, just as we all rely on teams to do things. When you’re operating solo for a bit, things start to get pretty tough.
Last year, McIlroy emerged as the regular, unofficial spokesperson for the traditional golf tours as LIV tried to persuade players to rake in Saudi millions.
“There’s no point in being just a mouthpiece if you can’t back that up by playing good golf and showing people the rewards people can get here if they play well,” said the 33-year-old. “It is a merit-based system. That’s what I’ve always struggled with: If a five-year-old boy or girl knows they’re working hard and shooting 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 reach the highest levels of the game.
“This is the only thing that has come into play that has disrupted that. It is not a merit-based system.”
Two wins in as many PGA Tour tournaments for Jon Rahm have reignited debate over the validity of golf’s ranking system. Rahm is currently the number 3 in the world. Rather than stir up debate, McIlroy praised the Spaniard.
“We all know that Jon is one of the best players in the world,” said McIlroy. “Whether there’s a one next to his name or a two next to his name, it doesn’t really matter. He has won four of his last six events. He’s playing the best golf he’s played in his career. He hasn’t had a long career, but he’s consistently played at a very, very high level throughout his career. It was a great start to the year.”