A frenzied war of words has erupted over tee-gate with Patrick Reed labelling Rory McIlroy an ‘immature little child’ after the world No 1 admitted on Wednesday that he refused to acknowledge the LIV rebel on the driving range at the Dubai Desert Classic.
In a surreal twist to golf’s civil war, it emerged on Tuesday that Reed had flicked a tee at McIlroy after his greeting was snubbed by the Northern Irishman, who has been the staunchest critic of the LIV breakaway series.
Far from backing away from the row, McIlroy revealed in his pre-tournament media duties that he ignored Reed because of a subpoena he received on Christmas Eve from the American’s lawyer Larry Klayman, which is believed to be geared around compelling McIlroy to testify on the contents of a meeting between PGA Tour players in Delaware last year.
Rory McIlroy admitted ignoring Patrick Reed on the driving range at the Dubai Desert Classic
Reed gave a stinging response by claiming the world number one is an ‘immature little child’
In comments that later drew a stinging response from Reed, McIlroy said: ‘I was down by my bag and he came up to me. I was busy working and doing my practice and I didn’t really feel the need to acknowledge him. I didn’t see a tee coming my direction at all, but apparently that’s what happened.
‘And if roles were reversed and I’d have of thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting a lawsuit.’
The last quip was quite possibly a play on a $750million defamation lawsuit that have been issued by Klayman on Reed’s behalf against Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.
McIlroy said he blanked Reed because of a subpoena he received from the American’s lawyer
When pressed on the driving range scenario, McIlroy added: ‘I mean, I got a subpoena on Christmas Eve. You can’t pretend like nothing’s happening, right? I think that’s the thing. We are living in reality here.’
When later approached on the range, Reed defended his corner. Giving a blow-by-blow account of the situation, he said: ‘Because of the relationship I’ve had with Rory – let’s be honest, we’ve had some great battles at Augusta and other tournaments and our friendships been pretty good up until obviously joining LIV – I walked over there and wished Harry (Diamond, McIlroy’s caddie) Happy New Year and then Rory because it is the first time I have seen them.
‘Harry shook my hand and Rory just looked down there and was messing with his Trackman (device) and kind of decided to ignore us. We all know where it came from – being part of LIV. Since my tees are Team Aces LIV tees I flicked him one. It was kind of a funny shot back. Funny how a small little flick has turned into basically me stabbing him and throwing a tee at him.’
Reed, a LIV golf rebel, had reportedly thrown a tee at McIlroy after being ignored on the range
Reed, who said the subpoena to McIlroy had ‘nothing to do with me’, added: ‘He saw me and he decided not to not to react.
‘It’s unfortunate because we’ve always had a good relationship with boys and joint one around played with them.
‘But it is one of those things – if you’re going to act like an immature little child then you might as well be treated like one.’
Reed and McIlroy have long had a compelling rivalry on the course. The American crushed McIlroy in their final-round pairing to win the 2018 Masters and also edged the four-time major winner in a fiery singles match at the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Reed, pictured winning the Masters in 2018, has had a compelling rivalry with McIlroy
The American also got the better of McIlroy during a fiery singles match at the 2016 Ryder Cup
At mention of that Ryder Cup tie, Reed, who is wearing LIV-branded clothing here, said: ‘I think he is still bitter.’
On the prospect of a pairing with McIlroy in Dubai, Reed added: ‘That would be great. I will tell you this much, there probably won’t be much talking. Even if I said hello on the first he won’t say anything. I can just be respectful and as much as a gentleman as I can be. His choice if he doesn’t respond.’
The bizarre encounter is set against the toxic backdrop of golf’s fractured landscape. An arbitration hearing will determine next month if LIV golfers can continue to play in DP World Tour events such as this one, while they have banned altogether from competing on the PGA Tour in the US.
The feud comes amid the ongoing controversy over the breakaway LIV golf tour
The picture internally at LIV is no less clear, with the second season of their circuit due to commence next month, though as yet they have announced no new players. World No 44 Mito Pereira is expected to cross over and it is believed the Saudi-backed tour are pushing for Belgium’s Thomas Pieters.
Such limited activity comes at a time when LIV CEO Greg Norman has faced calls from McIlroy and Tiger Woods to depart if there is to be any chance of a working relationship between the traditional and new factions. Norman’s position has theoretically been strengthened by a string of senior departures from LIV’s leadership, but McIlroy said: ‘I mean, if the chief executive doesn’t have an executive team, I don’t know how strong that is. He can’t do it himself.’