MELBOURNE – This might be the end of that Captain America business.
If it wasn't his finger-pointing interview after the Ryder Cup in France, a few swipes of sand in the Bahamas should make it a little more clear. Patrick Reed is not doing or saying the things that should make American golf want to rally around him.
Not that Reed cares what anyone thinks.
All he wants to do is play and win, and those qualities endear him to the old-school crowd that believes golf is getting too chummy and less cut throat. Reed is the kind of player who wants the ball for the final shot. The other Americans on this Presidents Cup team like that about him.
His post-match rant at the Ryder Cup was troublesome because he was quick to assign fault with the U.S. captain Jim Furyk for sitting him and Jordan Spieth for breaking up their partnership, without recognizing he couldn't find the fairway at Le Golf National during a fourballs match with Tiger Woods.
More difficult were his actions — and then his curious explanation — at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
From a sandy waste area left of the 11th fairway in the third round, video clearly showed his ball in a rumpled foot print. Reed set his club behind the ball, drew it back and scraped back some of the sand behind his ball. Then, he did it again, swiping away more sand.
It looked bad.
"If that's not improving your lie, I don't know what is," NBC analyst Paul Azinger said when it was shown on replay. "He knows better. I don't know why that happened or what he was thinking."
More telling was Rickie Fowler, who walked out of the scoring area toward a group of reporters and looked up at the television when it was being shown again.
His eyes widened.
"Whoa," Fowler said. "What is that?"
It's improving the line of play, and it comes with a two-shot penalty, which Reed was given and accepted.
Whether he intended to improve his line is not relevant as it relates to the rule.
Intent is relevant as it relates to his integrity, and only Reed can speak to that.
He says he did not cheat, a dirty word in golf that was brought up twice during his interview Tuesday.
“If you're intentionally trying to do something, that would be considered cheating,” he said. “But I wasn't intentionally trying to improve a lie or anything like that. Because if it was, it would have been a really good lie and I would have hit it really close.”
The outrage was predictable on social media, because social media thrives on outrage, especially for someone that rubs people the wrong way.
But this raised questions.
Reed told reporters in the Bahamas that while he accepted the penalty — how could he not when presented with video evidence like that? — a different camera angle would have indicated that his club wasn't as close to the ball as it looked. He held his hands about 8 inches apart to illustrate. No one was buying.
"When I take my practice swings, anyways, I don't ever put the club directly behind the ball because I'm always scared of the ball moving," Reed said. "I'm always going to give myself some room, especially on practice swings."
It's a classic case of he said, they said.
In this case, "they" stretched all the way down to the Australian Open.
Marc Leishman, the leading qualifier for the International team at the Presidents Cup, said he saw it and “it didn't look too good for him.”
Cameron Smith was more blunt the following day.
"If you make a mistake maybe once, you could maybe understand, but to give a bit of a (expletive) response like the camera angle," Smith told Australian AP. "I know Pat pretty good and he's always been nice to me, so I don't want to say anything bad about him. But anyone's cheating the rules, I'm not up for that."
So much for not saying anything bad about him.
U.S. captain Tiger Woods didn't sound overly concerned when he finished up in the Bahamas, and he switched into Bill Belichick mode in Melbourne, twice saying effectively, “We're on to the Presidents Cup.”
The real measure is what happens when golf returns to the individual game that it is for all but one week of the year.
This isn't the first time Reed has been under scrutiny.
There were allegations in the book, “Slaying the Tiger: A year inside the ropes on the new PGA Tour,” of Reed cheating during college qualifying while at Georgia. Reed denied them.
Video emerged over the weekend from another incident of Reed placing the club directly behind the ball in a waste area in 2015 in the Bahamas. There was Bay Hill in 2018 when he tried to get relief from a palmetto bush, and after being denied twice, said, "I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth."
Such history doesn't make this harder to forgive as much as it makes it harder to forget.