It’s almost awe-inspiring how Patrick Reed can slough off rules controversies with the unruffled disdain that one imagines Uday and Qusay greeted parking tickets in once-upon-a-time Baghdad.
Perhaps a man develops bulletproof confidence in the face of firing squads when he knows others are paid to throw themselves in front of the fusillade. How else to explain the scale of self-assurance that permits a professional golfer to palm his own ball, poke around in the ball mark, declare it was embedded, after it bounced, in 3-inch rough, with only cursory input from playing partners and none from rules officials, on live television, while leading a PGA Tour event.
The incident on the 10th hole at Torrey Pines during Saturday’s CBS broadcast lacked the clarity of Reed’s brazen bunker misadventure in the Bahamas in 2019. The video is inconclusive: viewers couldn’t see if Reed’s ball was in fact embedded, and the rules official wasn’t presented a fair opportunity to make that determination since Reed had already moved it. Less ambiguous is the growing sentiment that Patrick Reed’s relationship to the rules of golf mirrors that of a courtesan to her clothes—as something to occasionally be cloaked in for respectability, but otherwise an impediment to the conduct of business.
Courses are the currency of golf, yet the reality is that most of them are of no value.
To be fair, every course is loved by someone. They anchor communities, commerce, childhood memories, friendships. But from the standpoint of architectural merit, most are products of the Xerox school of golf course design, exhibiting only a faded sameness that you’ve seen previously, and in sharper focus.
Great golf courses are living works of art, so it’s fitting that notions of what constitutes greatness are as subjective as in any other art-form. What is loved by me, may be loathed by thee. Courses – and opinions thereof – are the one thing all golfers share, and the best of them are reminders that the real charm of this game has nothing to do with the PGA Tour or its stars. It lies in the land we walk (or, more often these days, drive).
I chatted recently with a caddie who had the misfortune of being grouped with one of the PGA Tour’s slowest players for the final round of an event in which his boss was contending. Just a few holes in, the twosome was put on the clock. The caddie, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, simmered quietly. The Tortoise quickened for exactly as long as the rules official remained and ground to a near-halt immediately after he departed. The caddie boiled over and angrily whispered directions to the Tortoise on how he ought to go forth and multiply.
Some folks will consider such a comment out of order. They’d be wrong.
It’s probably for the best that J.B. Holmes didn’t play the Sony Open in Hawaii a few weeks ago, since a man who can’t pull the trigger on laying up into the rough within four minutes surely would be paralyzed with uncertainty when faced with an alert about an incoming ballistic missile.