Rory McIlroy has insisted he was within his rights to ignore Patrick Reed on a driving range in Dubai after reports emerged the American had thrown a golf tee at the world No 1 in disgust. McIlroy revealed he was served court papers by Reed at his home in Florida 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 toss but used his pre-tournament press conference to explain his stance on Reed.
“Patrick came up to say hi and I didn’t really want him to,” McIlroy said. “From my recollection, it was. I didn’t see a t-shirt. I didn’t feel a t-shirt. Obviously someone else saw it. But it’s definitely a storm in a cup. I can’t believe that it has actually become a story, that is nothing.
“I was summoned by his lawyer on Christmas Eve. Trying to have a good time with my family and someone shows up on your doorstep and delivers it, you won’t take too 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 suit against the Golf Channel and its analyst, Brandel Chamblee, who he claims conspired with PGA Tour 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 doing my practice. I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge him.
“I didn’t see a tee coming at me at all, but apparently that’s what happened. And if the roles were reversed and I would have thrown that tee at him, I would expect a lawsuit.”
After speaking after McIlroy, Reed said: “We all know where that came from, being a part of LIV. Since my tees are Team Ace’s LIV tees, I flicked him one. It was a bit of a fun shot back. Fun , how a tiny little flick has turned into me basically 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 toddler, you might as well be treated like one.”
This bizarre affair dominated the discussion ahead of McIlroy’s first competitive start in 2023. Naturally, there was also talk of LIV after it emerged that circuit commissioner Greg Norman was to be handed extra powers. LIV has been hit by two high-profile resignations since its first season ended in October.
“If the CEO doesn’t have a management team, I don’t know how strong it is,” McIlroy said. “He can’t do it himself. He has to rely on a team, just as we all rely on teams to get things done. If you’re kind of operating solo, it starts to get pretty difficult.”
Last year saw McIlroy emerge as the regular, unofficial spokesman for golf’s traditional tournaments as LIV tried to lure players to Saudi Arabia’s millions.
“It’s no use just being a mouthpiece when you can’t back it up by playing good golf and showing people the rewards people can get out here if they play well,” the 33-year-old said. “It’s a merit-based system. That’s what I’ve always struggled with: If a five-year-old boy or girl knows 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 up to the professional level and they can reach the top levels of the game.
“This is the one thing that has come into the game that has disrupted it. It’s not a merit-based system.”
Two victories in as many PGA Tour events for Jon Rahm have reignited the discussion about the validity of golf’s ranking system. Rahm is currently world No. 3. Instead of fueling the debate, McIlroy paid tribute to the Spaniard.
“We all know Jon is one of the best players in the world,” McIlroy said. “Whether there’s a one next to his name or a two next to his name, it doesn’t matter. He has won four of his last six events. He is playing some of the best golf he has played in his career. He hasn’t had a long career, but throughout his career he’s played consistently at a very, very high level. It has been a fantastic start to the year.”