I think all of golf's 19th holes should pass the collection plate and buy Patrick Reed a Christmas present this year. How many extra pints were bought this past weekend by friends debating his latest confrontation with the Rules of Golf and the goodwill of the sport's fans?
In case you missed it, Reed's latest controversy came in the form of a couple lumps of sand he pushed away from his ball while in a waste area at Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge last Friday.
Golf's dreaded c-word - "cheat" - came pouring out of mouths and keyboards everywhere, pointing out that Reed had plainly improved his lie, breaking the Rules (Rule 8.1, to be precise). He was ultimately penalized two shots for the infraction.
The golf gods must have been paying attention, because Reed went on to finish two strokes out of a playoff with outright winner Henrik Stenson. The difference between the winner's check and Reed's third-place finish? $750,000, or roughly a C-note for every grain of sand he pushed out from behind his ball.
Does Reed's offense qualify as out-and-out cheating? Your answer likely depends on whether you think he'd be cavalier enough to knowingly fluff his lie with cameras rolling literally a few feet away from him. If not, he was absent-minded at best (naturally, this is Reed's own defense). If so, he probably deserves some sort of censure. The formal resolution points toward Reed being given the benefit of the doubt, at least this time.
Cheaters among us?
Professional golfers claim that cases of blatant cheating are relatively rare at their level of the game. For us amateurs and club players, it seems a little more prevalent.
Earlier this year, one member of the Saturday game I play in was cast out after he was discovered to have moved his mark some 20 feet (no, that's not a typo) closer to the hole on one particular putting green when the other players in his foursome weren't looking...or so he thought.
What made this incident more amusing that the mark-mover often boasted about his wealth and business success, which grated on many regulars. And yet, for all his bluster, here he was trying to put one over on his partners in a combination $10 skins and $10 Stableford points game. Strange and unfortunate, because he was a decent player when he was playing by the book, and pleasant enough when not talking about his material possessions.