There are no spectators at Winged Foot Golf Club, at least not within the property limits. But there are plenty of fans in the surrounding neighborhood, watching from makeshift bleachers behind homes, who have made their presence known.
Patrick Reed, one of golf’s more polarizing figures, couldn’t have missed them on the fourth hole Saturday during the third round of the U.S. Open.
There were cheers for playing partner Bryson DeChambeau, but with the otherwise quiet atmosphere, it would have been impossible to not catch some of the comments directed at Reed, including someone asking, “Why’s your caddie carrying a shovel?”
While not exactly clever, it’s still a dig that haunts, going back to the Hero World Challenge last December when Reed was penalized for improving his line of play in a waste area. And the heckling turned out to be the least of his worries, as Reed shot 77 to fall 8 shots back of tournament leader Matthew Wolff.
It was the second-highest score by a 36-hole leader at the U.S. Open in the past 30 years.
“Well, I got all my bad shots out of the way,” Reed said. “It was just one of those days. I couldn’t find a fairway, and from here trying to guess out of the rough all day, it was just hard. It was brutal.”
Reed was not asked about the heckling incident, and he has typically deflected questions about the rules breach, although he continues to get abuse for it.
On Saturday, Reed had golf swing problems, even as the penalty issue continues to dog him. It followed him at the Presidents Cup the week after the Hero and into the new year, including during a playoff loss at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and even while he was on his way to victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Apparently, the 13-week break necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic has not helped people forget.
It’s quite something to get heckled at a place where there are not supposed to be spectators.
In a way, this could have benefited Reed. He typically uses slights as fuel, and that was a big one. And yet, due to the lack of spectators, he did not have to put up with a raucous afternoon crowd. The same could be said, in a different way, for tournament leader Wolff, who has less to put up with under duress.
“It’s one variable that you just don’t have to deal with,” said Rory McIlroy, who after shooting 68 is 6 strokes back. “It’s a loss of an advantage to [those] accustomed to being in that environment.
“It just makes it a touch easier for the guys at the top. Even today, look, you’ve got Bryson and P-Reed out in the final group, and any other U.S. Open final grouping you’ve got those two guys, things are going to be said and tempers are going to flare. Even if those guys don’t have to deal with that today, it just makes it a little different and maybe a touch easier if you’re in those final few groups.”
Reed had other problems Saturday. He hit just three of 14 fairways. He made six bogeys and a double on the back without a birdie to shoot 43. He took 31 putts. It was a tough day, for sure.
“Frustrated,” he said. “I mean, anyone in my position would be frustrated, especially having the lead going into today. The great thing is there’s always tomorrow. And like I said, it’s a U.S. Open. Even though 8 shots seems like a lot, a lot of times you go out there, you make a birdie, the guy makes a bogey, gets himself in some trouble, that’s a 2-shot swing quickly.
“It’s one of those things that even though I’m 8 shots back, if I go out and play a really solid round, you never know.”
Maybe Reed would be served better by a little fan adversity. On the fourth hole, after getting the shoutout from the nearby “spectators,” Reed hit his approach shot to 4 feet — then gave a little wave to those nearby.