The latest in the awkward relationship between PGA golfers and those on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour involved, of all things, a tee tossed by Patrick Reed, who plays on the LIV tour, in the direction of Rory McIlroy, who has emerged as one of the outspoken leaders of the PGA.
McIlroy professed to have been unaware of the incident at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in which both are playing this week. McIlroy recalled that Reed "came up to say hello and I didn't really want him to." That's when Reed pulled a tee from his pocket and "flicked it," according to Reed, at McIlroy.
“I was down by my bag and he came up to me. I was busy working and sort of doing my practice. I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge him,” McIlroy told Golf Digest. “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 thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting a lawsuit.”
After McIlroy spoke, Reed told Golf Digest that he had approached McIlroy and his caddie, Harry Diamond, to say hello. "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 friendship's been pretty good up until obviously joining LIV."
He and Diamond shook hands, he said, but McIlroy "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.
“He saw me and he decided not to react. It’s unfortunate because we’ve always had a good relationship. . . . 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.”
The timing of a subpoena in Reed's $750 million defamation lawsuit against TV analyst Brandel Chamblee and the Golf Channel is another issue between the two. Reed alleges that Chamblee and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan conspired to defame him over joining LIV Golf and McIlroy has been called to testify about a meeting between PGA players that occurred last year.
"I was subpoenaed by his lawyer on Christmas Eve," McIlroy said. "Trying to have a nice time with my family and someone shows up on your doorstep and delivers that, you're not going to take that well. I'm living in reality, I don't know where he's living. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't expect a hello or a handshake."
Asked by a reporter if he could see "one day . . . mending bridges" with Reed, McIlroy, according to the news conference's transcriber, responded simply with an "incredulous facial expression."
So begins the first tournament of 2023 for McIlroy and the second season for the LIV, which starts up next month with Greg Norman remaining at the helm despite calls from McIlroy and Tiger Woods for him to depart if the PGA and LIV are to have a relationship. But a recent shake-up at LIV Golf gave Norman even more power in the organization, and McIlroy had a salty opinion on that.
“If the chief executive doesn’t have an executive team, I don’t know how strong that is,” McIlroy said. " . . . [He] can’t do it himself. He needs to rely on a team just like all of us rely on teams, to do things. When you start operating solo, it starts to get pretty difficult.”