Sobel: Justin Thomas Wins, but Patrick Reed Incident Captures All the Attention

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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Reed

Jan 06, 2020, 12:26 PM EST

Justin Thomas won his 12th career PGA Tour title Sunday night, vanquishing Patrick Reed on the third playoff hole at Kapalua after some wild back-and-forths down the stretch.

It’s not often that a player can elevate himself into a conversation with Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead – Thomas joined those three as the only players with a dozen wins by age 27 – yet still isn’t the story everyone is talking about afterward.

No, that would instead be the incident surrounding Reed near the end of that playoff.

For those who have been on a golf sabbatical for the last month, Reed was accused of cheating at the Hero World Challenge when he fluffed his lie in a waste bunker and was given the requisite penalty without any other type of punishment. Rather than own it and beg for forgiveness, he denied it and claimed something about the camera angle.

It was a bad look all around, and now it’s predictably leading to other bad looks – like the spectator who yelled, “Cheater!” when Reed was trying to make a crucial putt.

Here are 10 takeaways from the situation, which overshadowed Thomas’ win in the aftermath:


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We can Zapruder this video all we want, but the yell either came just as Reed hit the putt or immediately afterward. To those who contend the latter, I’d suggest something about the speed of sound and how we don’t hear the thwack of a driver until the ball has left the clubface, but it’s nitpicking here. The yell shouldn’t be used an excuse for why Reed missed the putt, nor should it be written off as some non-sequitur as if it happened while he was walking down the fairway on a Thursday morning. He clearly heard it and immediately reacted. And when he did, it became a major part of the story.

I was surprised by how many people (on social media, at least) stated afterward that Reed “deserved” this catcall. Look, I’m the furthest thing from a Reed apologist you’ll find, however there’s still some decorum involved here. Not to go all Shooter McGavin, reminding people this isn’t a rock concert and demanding they go back to their shanties, but when the majority of observers (and again, this is a social media straw poll, so take it for what it’s worth) see no problem whatsoever in the accusation or the timing, that’s an issue. Besides, I wonder how many of these people, if they were playing a match against a fellow golfer they’d accused of such a violation one month earlier, would yell at them during these inopportune moments. (Not to mention how many “incensed” fans actually understand which rule he broke.) Root against him, applaud when he misses, but fans shouldn’t become part of the story.