For defending Saudi International champ, Graeme McDowell there was no escaping the events last weekend taking place some 13,500 kilometres away in San Diego.
While golf has been praised for its social distancing practices during the current pandemic lockdown, the ancient game has been in the spotlight in just the first month of a New Year for all the wrong reasons. The latest chapter is the controversy over Patrick Reed and the now widely-known incident last Saturday down at the 10th hole at Torrey Pines. Reed’s Tiger Woods-like five shot demolition victory at the Farmers Insurance Open has been quickly forgotten, unlike what happened a day earlier on July’s US Open South Course host venue.
McDowell produced one of his own best demotion jobs a year ago along the Red Sea shoreline in capturing pro career win number 16 by two shots from American Dustin Johnson, who also is back for a second year as the Masters champion and World No. 1. And after the courtesy of some introductory remarks in returning to Saudi, McDowell found himself being asked for an opinion on the latest Reed golfing scandal.
“I mean, obviously difficult to comment as I wasn’t there and I wasn’t playing with him (Reed),” said McDowell. “I saw a little bit of footage. I felt like — I felt like he — I felt like he did things okay. I felt like he pretty much went about the procedure the way you’re supposed to. You know, unfortunately, he’s created a — he’s created a name for himself which attracts a huge amount of attention when he does things.
“I like Patrick. I think he’s a good kid. I think he’s a great player. I feel bad that he has created the label for himself that he has because I think he’s such a talented player, you know. So, I hope we can move on from it and see him for the player he is.
“Of course, we also need to protect the fields. Cheating does — there is no place in the game of golf for cheating. I hate the word. Did Patrick Reed cheat last week? No, I don’t think he did. I don’t think he knowingly did something that brought the field — that didn’t protect the rest of the field.
“Like I say, I haven’t really — we’ve spoken a little bit about it. People have their — people have their opinions. I’m in the camp that I didn’t see a whole lot wrong with what he did last week at all. It’s a tough one. I hope we can continue to talk about his golf rather than the other stuff that he’s unfortunately being talked about for.”
This week is very much golfing Deja vu for McDowell who arrived in Saudi a year ago struggling without a win in some two years, ranked No. 104 in the world while he arrived to Saudi after missing the cut in Dubai. McDowell this year has missed the cut in both Abu Dhabi and also last week at the Emirates club, and has dropped to No. 91 in the world after jumping to 47th a year ago in winning in Saudi.
“It was a nice victory at the time last year,” he said. “I felt like I was starting to get a little bit of a head of steam up and starting to create some nice momentum and move into the right direction and obviously that momentum didn’t get a chance to last very long unfortunately.
“Listen, it was great. First time here last year. Nice, windy track. Good golf course. Great facilities here. It fit my eye pretty well and like I say, it was really important to me at the time. The win got me back in the Top-50 in the world and got me in Augusta and opened a lot of doors for me.
“But like I said, obviously that three-, four-month break, it broke my momentum a little bit, and I didn’t respond well when we came back in the summer. So, nice to come back. It’s always nice to come back to a golf course where you have great memories. And like I say, I would love to get some of that momentum back again this week. That would be really, really awesome.”