Reed and McIlroy beef explained after row at Dubai Desert Classic

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The headlines should have been about an enthralling golf tournament that went down to the final putt. But instead, Rory McIlroy dramatically edging out Patrick Reed by a stroke on the final hole in the Dubai Desert Classic was almost secondary to the controversy that proceeded it. And no one is kidding themselves into believing the bitter rivalry between the two was concluded in the Middle East.

Of course, the tempestuous relationship between the two is merely a microcosm of the sport’s divide. Rory McIlroy v Patrick Reed is but one battle amid the war that is the PGA Tour v LIV Golf. The Saudi-backed venture’s most vociferous critic v one of it’s most obnoxious ambassadors.

Of course, the tension had risen before the pair had even reached the practice green at Emirates Golf Club – McIlroy has revealed he received a subpoena on Christmas Eve to give evidence in one of Reed’s multiple ongoing lawsuits. Lawyer Larry Klayman is pursuing a £605 million defamation lawsuit on the Amercian player’s behalf against Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.

Little wonder therefore, that McIlroy didn’t offer a warm handshake or a friendly hello when the pair came across each other pre-tournament in Dubai. Reed’s response was to throw a tee in the direction of the four-time major winner, who later retorted that had he done similar, he’d expect to end up in court.

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Former Masters winner Reed later told the press too much had been made of the saga, arguing that McIlroy had sparked the incident by initially ignoring him: “We all know where it came from – being part of LIV,” he said. “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.”

The two then followed the script that the media craved, fighting it out at the top of the leaderboard until the final hole. But amid what was an otherwise exciting contest, Reed courted controversy again after his drive on the 17th in the third round ended up in a tree. After insisting he could identify his ball he was permitted a drop, but questionably, it took place under a different tree to the one he had driven towards.

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Ironically, Chamblee was one of many pundits and fans to notice the apparent discrepancy, although in his defence Reed’s version of events was backed up by the DP European Tour. And he’s since fired back at critics, defending his behaviour in what has been dubbed ‘tree-gate’.

But ultimately, the latest round of this fight went to McIlroy, who drained a 10-foot putt on the final hole to move to 18-under and beat Reed to the title by a single stroke. But McIlroy, and the status quo, will know deep down it is but one minor battle in a war that is set to rage on throughout 2023.

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