Storm in a tee peg a sad indication of where golf and top level sport is

Ronan MacNamara
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Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Whether you want to call it, ‘teegate,’ the ‘tee party,’ or ‘storm in a teecup/teepeg,’ what happened on the driving range between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed was just sad, petulant and overall, not very much.

It has been blown way out of proportion and it’s a shame that one of golf’s underrated rivalries has been reduced to schoolyard nonsense to avoid extinction.

To be fair, who wishes somebody a Happy New Year in the fourth week of January? Once the first weekend passes by you’re done you have missed your window of opportunity and you should wallow in your paranoia that your peers think you’re ignorant for not expressing good tidings towards them.

It’s childish on both fronts, a simple nod from Rory would have sufficed but Reed’s Partridge levels of self awareness to fling a ‘Four Aces’ golf tee in his direction is on par with McIlroy’s self righteousness.

The battles McIlroy and Reed have had over the last few years resemble a classic sporting rivalry of the underdog vs the favourite, the underdog won’t get anywhere near the silverware and the accolades of his opponent but on any given day, over one match, over 18 holes he is capable of reigning supreme.

It’s fair to say Reed has had McIlroy’s number in the past with the two main examples the 2016 Ryder Cup and 2018 Masters but while there was needle, there was always respect.

Reed is many, many things and it was already a challenge to count on one hand, how many players actually like him or even find him tolerable, but McIlroy it seemed did, until now of course…a Christmas Eve subpoena will dampen any relationship.

What they could produce together on the golf course was pure legend and their enthralling singles match in 2016 will live long in the memory and arguably go down as one of the greatest of all time.

It had everything and there was a hint of the pair of them bringing the best out of each other in the adrenaline fuelled grudge match, none more so than when the Holywood native holes a long range putt and cups the ears roaring ‘I can’t hear you,’ only for his adversary to roll it in from under half that distance and give it the shush and wag the finger at Rory.

The duo actually fistbumped and patted each other on the back, a great show of sportsmanship in the most heated of cauldrons.

That rivalry was added to in 2018 and it was again Reed who got the better of Rory at the Masters despite McIlroy playing some mind games on Saturday night.

Undoubtedly Reed won the respect of McIlroy, with the four-time major champion even going as far as to leap to the defence of ‘Captain America’ when he came under fire for a rules infraction in 2019 – not for the first time!

Since then, McIlroy has taken it upon himself to drive a wedge between himself and anyone who has defected to the Saudi backed LIV Golf and Reed had already taken umbrage to his comments which he brandished as ‘hypocritical.’

“I feel like [Rory] making those types of comments is insulting,” he said, insisting he’d played more DP World Tour events than some US-based Europeans. “These other guys sitting there and talking saying you can’t play two tours, that’s hypocritical as ever; these guys are playing the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.”

McIlroy has already had a breakdown in relations with Sergio García, making his feelings clear as to what he thinks about anyone playing on the LIV Tour.

It’s unfortunate that things have spiralled into this situation but modern golf is as much about what is written on the cheque at the end of the week and what happens off the course as on it.

Golf at the top level is slowly morphing into an ugly clone of what football has become over the last two decades. Money talks and as the European Super League refuses to evaporate from the footballing landscape. The PGA Tour are throwing more money than ever at tournaments just to keep players onside but LIV are refusing to go away and all could hinge on the upcoming court hearings.

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