One of golf’s simplest rules is that you cannot do anything to improve the lie of your ball, so I was astonished to see what Patrick Reed did on the weekend.
The American was handed a two-shot penalty at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas after twice flattening the sand behind his ball with practice swings when in a waste area on the 11th hole.
Doing that with a television camera behind him was incomprehensible to me. Did he not know the rules? Or did he not realise what he was doing, like he suggested when asked about the incident afterwards?
Some have suggested that a two-stroke penalty isn’t a big enough punishment, and considering Reed only finished two shots behind winner Henrik Stenson they might have a point.
It’s a grey area of the sport, but one thing is certain: Reed won’t be allowed to forget about it and move on this week. That’s because he’s now in Australia, where he will be competing for the United States in the Presidents Cup.
The competition between an American team and one representing the rest of the world, apart from Europe, starts in Melbourne on Thursday and the Australian crowd will target Reed.
Australian player Cameron Smith has already stoked the fire, saying he doesn’t “have any sympathy for anyone that cheats” so the tournament could be feisty.
My Woods worry
America have dominated the event in the past, with 10 wins, one draw and one defeat. But, despite the US having the stronger side on paper once again, I think this year represents a great chance for the rest of the world.
Their only other previous win came in 1988 at the same venue, the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, and this time their opponents have a few problems to contend with.
Tiger Woods is a playing captain for the Americans and, while I think he is deserving of his spot in the 12-man team, I don’t think he should hold both roles.
I have experience of captaining Europe in the Ryder Cup and it is a demanding job. There are so many facets to it. When Woods is out playing who is going to be assuming the captaincy role?
Only the captain is allowed to give advice to the members of his team during the course of play, so Woods will have to delegate to one of his assistants, Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker and Fred Couples.
Woods is unnecessarily adding extra pressure onto his shoulders and diminishing what he can do in both roles.
I’m sure he has thought it through, but I think it would have been more sensible to relinquish the captaincy to Couples, who has done the job three times before, and concentrate on playing.
The jet lag factor
The US team has landed in Melbourne now, but the 26 hours of travelling from the Bahamas, where most of them were playing, will be an issue.
I always found Australia the hardest place to get over jet lag, which can linger for two or three days and affect your preparation.
There are other concerns too. The away team are without world No1 Brooks Koepka due to injury, Dustin Johnson had knee surgery and hasn’t played since August, while Rickie Fowler is similarly rusty, having only returned from a lengthy lay-off last week.
The international team have plenty of debutants, so there is no scar tissue from previous defeats, and although they are underdogs I think it could just be their year.
Finally, congratulations to 18-year-old Dane Rasmus Hojgaard, who became the third youngest winner on the European Tour on Sunday when he came out on top of a three-way play-off at the Mauritius Open.
He and his identical twin brother Nicolai have bright futures ahead of them.