USA Presidents Cup playing captain, Tiger Woods had no sooner stepped off a near 25-hour flight to Australia to find himself dragged into the controversy surrounding embattled team member, Patrick Reed.
Woods and all but one member of his red-hot 12-man side arrived into Melbourne on Monday morning local time on a charter jet from the Bahamas where they had been contesting the Hero World Challenge.
Woods, a first playing captain of either a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup since 1994, confessed he is very wary of a potential backlash from mainly Australian supporters attending the event starting Thursday at the famed Royal Melbourne.
“The fans we have down here are awesome and they are into their sport,” said Woods.
“Yes, I have talked to Pat about it but that is behind us and we are focused on this week, on trying to go up against this great International team here.
“As we all know, Pat was penalised. That was it. The end of story. Unfortunately, he missed the play-off by two shots, but we are all in it this week getting ready for the Internationals.”
It hasn’t helped that rookie Aussie Cameron Smith stirred the controversy pot by calling on his compatriot fans to “absolutely give it” to the embattled Reed.
Reed is again the ‘bad boy’ of world golf after being docked a two-shot penalty after being deemed to have purposely moved sand behind his ball in playing a shot during the third round of last week’s Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge.
Texas-born Reed reluctantly accepted the penalty but claimed the single camera that picked-up the incident was misleading.
Australian-born Smith, along with a number of other players were approached after Sunday’s final round of the Australian Open in Sydney but it was the current World No. 52 ranked Smith, who is making his Presidents Cup debut, who was the most outspoken.
“If you make a mistake maybe once, you can maybe understand, but to give a bit of a bull***t response like the camera angle – I mean, that’s pretty up there,” said Smith.
“I hope the crowd absolutely gives it to not only him but everyone (from team America) next week.”
Fellow Australian and International Presidents Cup teammate, Marc Leishman, described Reed’s behaviour as “pretty ordinary” and said he had opened the door to taunts from the crowd at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
When asked if he would have any sympathy for Reed, Smith said: “I don’t have any sympathy for anyone that cheats, no.”
He added: “I know Pat pretty well and he’s always been pretty nice to me so I don’t want to say anything bad about him but for anyone that is cheating the rules, I’m not up for that.”