A LIV player on top? Tee time drama? Dubai wildness continues
The Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy tee time? (Or is it *tee* time?) That’ll have to wait at least a day, if at all.
Still, golf drama does not rest these days. And the threesome going off at 8:15 a.m. local time on Sunday is an eye-opener, though the middleman in the Dubai Desert Classic third-round grouping may have framed it best.
Late Saturday afternoon, Tyrrell Hatton shared a tweet from the DP World Tour that showed a video of him fading backward into bushes, above a GIF of Homer Simpson doing the same. With it, Hatton wrote:
“If the @rydercup is mentioned in my group tomorrow morning.”
Indeed. The Englishman is playing with Luke Donald, this year’s European Ryder Cup captain, and Henrik Stenson, who had been this year’s European Ryder Cup captain. If you’re new to the story, here’s some background: The PGA Tour and DP World Tour are entering their second calendar year of a fight with LIV Golf that has seen LIV offer guaranteed money to Tour players, the Tour create changes in response, the sides take each other court — and Stenson lose his captaincy when he signed with Saudi-backed LIV.
It’s good stuff, if histrionics are your thing. Though that’s just the start; Donald-Stenson-Hatton, all at two-under, just made the cut and are eight back of leaders Thomas Pieters, amateur Michael Thorbjornsen and Richard Bland — who also plays with LIV.
What do you think, Blandy: Would a Dubai win mean more, given the climate?
In an interview with Golf Digest, he said no.
“I’m not trying to kind of get one over on the guys that are out here,” Bland said. “I’ve got a lot of good friends out here, and a lot of them have shown support. So I’m just here to do the best I can. …
“I’m not out here to try and make any enemies with any comments that I make. If other people want to make comments, then that’s on them.”
Speaking of comments …
Among the group two back of the lead are Reed and McIlroy. And here’s how their week has gone so far:
— On Monday on the range at Emirates Golf Club, we heard word that Reed, a LIV player, had tossed a tee in the direction of McIlroy, as much of a spokesman for the established brands as anyone.
— On Tuesday, we saw a clip of it. It was juicy, though harmless. Reed walked up to McIlroy, Harry Diamond, McIlroy’s caddie, and Michael Bannon, McIlroy’s coach, he shook hands with Diamond, he gestured toward McIlroy, McIlroy didn’t appear to notice — and Reed tossed a tee toward McIlroy, which we would find out later was a LIV Golf tee.
— On Wednesday, after being asked about it, McIlroy said he didn’t see the tee, nor felt the need to talk to Reed, whose lawyer had subpoenaed him — on Christmas Eve — as part of his lawsuit against the PGA Tour. McIlroy added this: “I mean, I got a subpoena on Christmas Eve. I mean, I don’t see your — like you can’t pretend like nothing’s happening, right. I think that’s the thing. Like why — we are living in reality here. He’s — no, so …” To the Daily Mail, Reed said this: “He saw me and he decided not to react. It’s unfortunate,” Reed said. “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.”
— On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, McIlroy and Reed played their first and second rounds; storms have messed with the schedule and have forced a Monday finish. And their scores matched, and there were thoughts of a potential third-ground grouping — but they’ll tee off 11 minutes apart; Reed at 11:31 a.m. local time and McIlroy at 11:42. (Though a message by GOLF.com to the DP World Tour was not immediately returned to confirm, it appears the tour uses a first-in/last-out method to set its third- and fourth-round tee times.)
Afterward on Saturday, McIlroy talked only of his golf. But he did have this exchange.
“A lot of noise at the start of the week, but given the delays and suspension, does it feel like a grind out here especially because it is a Monday finish?”
“Not really,” McIlroy said. “I’m glad that they went to a Monday. It’s good that all the field get an opportunity to play 72 holes. I think it’s a good thing. It’s such a big event. I think now the discrepancy between these big events on tour and then the lesser ones, that fourth day could mean a lot to someone in terms of changing the course of their year or the course of their career.
“Obviously happy we are playing 72, and it’s not as if people have to go that far. Most of the guys are going to Ras Al-Khaimah, a few guys are going to Saudi, so we’re not having to go anywhere else. Everyone can sort of still get to their destinations on Monday night. Thankfully for me, there’s two more rounds.”
Yeah, that’s right. If you think you’ve seen a lot already, there are still 36 holes to go.
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