Patrick Reed said his motivation for the Presidents Cup in Melbourne is "turning personal" amid backlash and claims of cheating after his penalty controversy.

American golfer Reed takes to the course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club as the villain following his two-stroke penalty during last week's Hero World Challenge.

Already a maligned figure on the PGA Tour, Reed was penalised for improving his lie in a bunker, hitting the sand twice during his practice swings, sparking controversy.

The International team – led by Ernie Els – have been outspoken, with Cameron Smith saying, "I don't have any sympathy for anyone that cheats" during the Australian Open last week.

Having been backed by United States captain Tiger Woods earlier on Tuesday, 2018 Masters champion Reed fronted the media full of confidence as he strongly dismissed cheating allegations.

"It goes from wanting to beat those guys to it now turning personal, so it's going to be a fun week," Reed told reporters, with the Presidents Cup set to start on Thursday.

Asked how he felt about the word "cheat" being bandied about, Reed replied: "It's not the right word to use. At the end of the day, if you do something unintentionally that breaks the rules, it's not considered cheating and at the end of the day that's what it is.

"If you're intentionally trying to do something, that would be considered cheating, 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."

On the backlash and comments made by members of the International team, Reed added: "They're not supposed to talk good about us and we're not supposed to talk good about them leading into this event, that's normal. At the end of the day, all I can do is control me and what comes out of my mouth. Can't whole what comes out of theirs."

"Of course they are going to speak out, because they want to get their crowds going and get on their side," Reed continued. That's the name of the game. At the end of the day, all I can do is control what I can do and how I play, and so it doesn't matter who I'm playing on the other team. My job this week as Captain [Woods] has told all of our guys, "Go out and win your point."

"Whenever your name is called, you have to go out and win your match and that's what we're going to try and do, go out and win the point. Not to do anything wrong, but strictly win the point for myself and our team and my country."

Tiger Woods is confident his United States team have the strength in depth to claim victory in the Presidents Cup, despite a lengthy journey to Australia "in a luxurious tin can".

The USA will seek to win an eighth consecutive edition of the competition against their International opponents in Melbourne, with captain Woods headlining a star-studded visiting line-up.

Even with four-time major winner Brooks Koepka forced out through injury, the USA are heavy favourites to prevail and Woods has faith in his team to deliver the goods this week.

"I think our strength is that we are a very deep team," he said at the captains' media conference on Tuesday. 

"The guys have played well this entire year, and you know, we had 11 out of 12 guys play last week, so it was nice for them to shake off some rust, get a feel for things.

"Today is an important day for us to just walk and to stretch our legs a bit. Getting in yesterday after a 26-hour ride in a luxurious tin can, it's nice to actually get out there and feel some fresh air."

One man sure to attract attention from the crowd is Patrick Reed, who has been embroiled in controversy since being hit with a two-stroke penalty at the Hero World Challenge at the weekend.

The American was penalised for improving his lie in a bunker, hitting the sand twice during his practice swings in a move he insists was unintentional.

It is expected that Reed, already a divisive figure, will come in for some rough treatment, but Woods had some kind words for the local fans.

"Well, I'm sure somebody's going to say something out there," he admitted.

"But I think that in general, all the times I have been to Australia and have played here, the fans have been fantastic.

"They are the most knowledgeable, the most excitable fans. They love their sport. They are going to come out and it's going to be bipartisan, as it should be.

"They are going to root for the Internationals more so than they are us. There's nothing wrong with that."

Opposing captain Ernie Els struck a defiant tone despite history weighing heavily against the International side, who have not won the tournament since 1998. 

"I've got a great young team [and] I've got some experienced players," said the South African.

"Guys are naturally just standing up; guys who are quite comfortable to speak – and I like that. I like the spirit we have this week."

Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time despite having won fewer majors than Jack Nicklaus.

That is the firm view of Rory McIlroy, who declared a clear winner in the longest-running debate in the sport.

Nicklaus won 18 majors between 1962 and 1986, with Woods' 2019 Masters success moving him to 15 after an 11-year wait.

However, McIlroy cited Woods' 82 PGA Tour wins – nine more than his compatriot – as proof of the 43-year-old's greater consistency.

"In the history of our game no one has played better golf than Tiger Woods," McIlroy told the Golf Channel's Morning Drive show.

"When you look – 2000, 2001, that whole stretch – no one has played the calibre of golf that he played then.

"That's why I think he is the best player to ever live, because no one reached the levels that he did. In my estimation, he is the best to ever do it.

"I think it's the relentlessness. Back in those years I was talking about – nine wins, and then the next year it would be 10 wins, then the next year it would be eight wins. It was just year after year of relentless excellence.

"I think his 82 PGA Tour events that he's won is nearly more impressive than the 15 majors. The motivation to get up every morning and say, 'Yep, I'm going to keep on this journey, keep dominating people' – and he's still doing it.”

Woods needs one more PGA Tour victory to claim the outright record tally, with Sam Snead having won the same number. 

Rory McIlroy has sympathy for the under-fire Patrick Reed and claimed people like to "kick him when he's down" after the American was penalised for improving his lie at the Hero World Challenge. 

Reed, who was hit with a two-stroke penalty, insists it was not his intention to break the rules when he brushed the sand twice during practice swings from the bunker.

Golf's rules state that players cannot improve their ability to play a shot by "removing or pressing down sand or loose soil".

While McIlroy conceded the punishment was necessary, he felt the 2018 Masters champion had been given a particularly rough time.

"I don't think it would be a big deal if it wasn't Patrick Reed," the four-time major winner told the Golf Channel's Morning Drive show. 

"It's almost like, a lot of people within the game, it’s almost like a hobby to sort of kick him when he's down."

Reed pleaded his case by saying he could not feel his club hit the sand and even went as far as to suggest the camera angle had made the incident look worse than it was.

McIlroy added: "I think the live shot isn't as incriminating as the slow-mo. It's hard, because you try to give the player the benefit of the doubt, right? He's in there, he's trying to figure out what way to play the shot.

"It's almost like it's obliviousness to it rather than anything intentful, in terms of trying to get away with anything.

"It doesn't make it right what he did."

United States captain Tiger Woods revealed he had warned Patrick Reed of a potentially hostile reception in Australia as his team try to keep their focus on the Presidents Cup.

Woods is leading - and playing for – the USA against Ernie Els' International team this week, but Reed, a captain's pick, has been at the centre of controversy coming into the tournament.

The former Masters champion was dealt a two-stroke penalty at the Hero World Challenge - hosted by Woods in the Bahamas - for hacking away at the sand around his ball in the third round.

Reed was punished for "removing or pressing down sand or loose soil" and agonisingly finished two shots behind victor Henrik Stenson.

Woods is wary of potential backlash from rival supporters in the coming days, but he hopes the incident can be quickly forgotten.

"The fans we have down here are awesome and they are into their sport," the 15-time major champion said. "Yes, I have talked to Pat about it.

"But that is behind us and we are focused on this week, on trying to go up against this great International team here.

"As we all know, Pat was penalised. That was it. The end of story. Unfortunately, he missed the play-off by two shots, but we are all in it this week getting ready for the Internationals."

It is unclear yet how much involvement Woods will have as a playing captain at the Cup, but opposite number Els expects him to have an impact.

"[Having a playing captain] hasn't been done in quite a few years," Els said. "There will be a lot of help for him.

"We'll see how it goes. I don't know how many sessions he's going to play. Obviously he's a big asset to their team.

"We can only do what we do, control what we can control, play the way we want to play, and hopefully that's good enough."

Teenager Rasmus Hojgaard displayed extraordinary nerve to win the Mauritius Open and claim a maiden European Tour title in only his fifth start.

The 18-year-old Dane birdied the final hole in regulation play to complete a 68 and earn a spot in a three-way play-off at 19 under with fellow rookie Antoine Rozner (69) and Renato Paratore (67).

Hojgaard then turned on the style when playing the 18th a further three times, twice recording birdies to match Rozner - as Paratore was eliminated - and then sealing victory with a wonderful eagle. Only Matteo Manassero and Danny Lee have triumphed on the European Tour at a younger age.

A stunning approach to around 10 feet set up Hojgaard's winning putt and the youngster, whose identical twin Nicolai finished second to Sergio Garcia at the KLM Open in September, was soon doused in champagne as he celebrated a momentous success.

"I can't put it into words right now. This is a dream come true," a soaked but smiling Hojgaard told Sky Sports. "I don't know what to say - it's amazing."

A par at the first play-off hole ended Paratore's hopes, but Rozner did nothing wrong and was on course for a third successive birdie in the play-off when Hojgaard drained his eagle putt.

Louis de Jager produced the best round of the day, a 64 featuring six front-nine birdies and an eagle at the 14th, to finish one shot behind the leading trio.

He was joined at 18 under by Benjamin Hebert (66), Grant Forrest (66) and Thomas Detry, whose wait for a first European Tour win goes on after he could only manage a 70 having begun the day in a share of the lead with Rozner and Calum Hill.

It was a miserable Sunday for Hill. The Scot triple-bogeyed the first and went around in 74 to finish tied-17th at 14 under.

Matt Jones denied a fast-finishing Louis Oosthuizen to secure his second Australian Open title in Sydney on Sunday.

Jones became a dual winner of the tournament after holding on for a one-stroke victory following his final-round 69 at The Australian Golf Club.

Winner of the Australian Open in 2015, Australian golfer Jones entered the final day with a three-shot advantage.

But 2010 Open Championship winner Oosthuizen (66) threatened to spoil the party when he eagled the 72nd hole and cut Jones' lead to just one stroke.

Jones, however, managed to save par on the par-five 18th to claim the Stonehaven Cup at 15 under.

He joins an elite group, including Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Jordan Spieth, as the only players to have won the title twice.

Amateur Takumi Kanaya (71) and Aaron Pike (69) finished tied for third at nine under, while Paul Casey (72), Greg Chalmers (67), Denzel Ieremia (71), Cameron Tringale (73) and Chun-An Yu (67) were a shot further back.

Henrik Stenson recorded his first tournament win in over two years as a stunning late eagle helped him clinch the Hero World Challenge on Saturday.

Top spot on a star-studded leaderboard changed hands on several occasions during a gripping final round, with Stenson making his move on the par-five 15th at the Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

The Swede came close to holing out his long-range approach shot to the green for an albatross, instead having to settle for a tap-in putt that moved him to 18 under par.

Three straight pars saw the 2016 Open champion sign for a score of 66, leaving him to watch on as those big names still out on the course attempted to catch him.

A fast-finishing Jon Rahm tried his best, an eagle of his own at the 15th sandwiched between birdies.

However, the Spaniard failed to pick up the shot he required over his closing two holes to draw level with Stenson, leaving him a shot adrift in second place.

Patrick Reed, who was handed a two-shot penalty during his third round after appearing to shift sand from behind his ball at the 11th hole, was along in third on 16 under, ahead of Tiger Woods.

A birdie at the seventh had Woods in front at 14 under but, after picking up another at the 11th, his hopes of victory were dealt a telling blow when he bogeyed the par-four 11th.

Justin Rose and Justin Thomas ended up tied together on 13 under, one clear of overnight leader Gary Woodland, whose topsy-turvy 73 included a double-bogey seven at the third.

There is a three-way tie at the top of the Mauritius Open leaderboard going into the final round after Saturday surges from Antoine Rozner and Thomas Detry.

Calum Hill had held a one-shot lead after 36 holes, but saw that advantage evaporate at Heritage Golf Club.

Rozner, who had been two off the pace, carded a six-under-par 66 that included an eagle at the fifth and moved him level with Hill, who went round in 68.

Only a birdie-birdie finish – the second a monster putt – kept Hill in a share of the lead at the end of a round in which he struggled to match the scoring he produced in his 64 on Friday.

"It was nice to have a couple of birdies to finish off and sneak back into a tie for the lead," Hill said in quotes reported the European Tour. "Happy with how it finished off. It was similar to my morning round [on Friday], wasn't much wind then either. The scoring was good out there if you played well."

Detry sunk seven birdies as he struck a five-under 67 to move to 16 under, with each of the trio eyeing their first win on the European Tour.

Rasmus Hojgaard and Sihwan Kim are a shot off the pace, with Renato Paratore and Brandon Stone a stroke further back.

Patrick Reed stressed he did not intend to improve his lie in a bunker at the Hero World Challenge after being awarded a two-stroke penalty.

The Texan was penalised for his actions on the 11th hole at the Albany Golf Club in The Bahamas, as video footage showed him twice hacking away sand during practice swings.

Golf's rules state that players cannot improve their ability to play a shot by "removing or pressing down sand or loose soil".

Reed was informed of the penalty shortly after his round, and the former Masters champion goes into the final 18 holes three shots back from leader Gary Woodland.

"It was in a full footprint and I felt my club was that far behind the ball when I was taking a practice swing," Reed said. "It was obviously hitting a bit of sand, though I didn't feel any drag.

"But when they brought it up for me [on the TV] I definitely saw it drag and, because of that, it is a two-shot penalty even though I didn't feel like it would have affected my lie.

"Every time I get in one of those bunkers I am scared to get my club close to it [the ball]. I accept the two-shot penalty, even though there was not any intent as I was far enough away.

"I think with a different camera angle they would have seen it was not improving the lie as I was far enough away from the golf ball.

"I don’t ever put the club directly behind the ball in a situation like that as I am scared of it moving. Intent is a big part but with only one camera angle it is a 50-50 battle when you are being assessed for anything like that.

"I told them there was no intent and it was far enough away from the ball, but they didn't have another camera angle to show that and they felt it might have been improving the lie.

"At the end of the day you have got to let things roll off your shoulders and I still have one round to play tomorrow. If I stew over something, it is my word against their word and because they only have one camera angle, I don't really have a choice.

"After seeing it brush some sand, they thought that was a breach and, in the Rules of Golf, if you improve your lie, it is a penalty. At the end of the day you have to accept it and move on."

Matt Jones moved a step closer to winning the Australian Open for a second time after extending his lead to three strokes at the end of the third round.

Jones entered the penultimate day with a one-shot advantage in Sydney, however, the Australian golfer moved clear on Saturday.

At The Australian Golf Club, 2015 champion Jones carded a three-under-par 68 to stretch his advantage heading into Sunday's final round.

Jones posted five birdies and two bogeys to end the day 13 under through 54 holes, ahead of American Cameron Tringale (69).

"I'm sure I can draw on it. I haven't won a lot of golf in my life," Jones told reporters when asked if having already won an Australian Open makes Sunday's round a bit easier.

"I've won the Houston Open, won a couple of other smaller tournaments and then the Australian Open, but it's only four years past and I'll draw on some of that experience tomorrow, of course."

Internationals Paul Casey (71) and Louis Oosthuizen (70), and amateur Takumi Kanaya, are four shots off the pace.

Gary Woodland ended a rollercoaster third round top of the Hero World Challenge leaderboard, but Tiger Woods moved further into position.

Patrick Reed had been three clear of the chasing pack through two rounds, yet his miserable Friday blew the tournament wide open in the Bahamas.

While a number of stars consequently had the opportunity to claim the lead, it was Woodland who moved into pole position thanks to drama that continued to the 18th hole.

Henrik Stenson had been two clear of a group of four in a tie for second when he birdied the 17th, only to see the tables turn at the last.

The Swede bogeyed for the first time all day, a four-under 68 dropping him to 12 under, as Woodland made gains on each of the final two holes.

The U.S. Open champion moved to 13 under, a stroke ahead of Stenson, who appeared to be level with Reed as play finished.

However, Reed, who made par at every hole on the front nine, before originally scrambling to a 72 with a birdie at the last, was handed a two-stroke penalty that amended his score to 74.

Reed twice appeared to shift sand from behind his ball at the 11th hole, and PGA Tour officials subsequently confirmed he had violated Rule 8.1a (4), which relates to "removing or pressing down sand or loose soil".

That leaves the 2018 Masters champion three back from Woodland.

Woods is well positioned, though, having fired again after a 66 on Thursday boosted him to within six of then-leader Reed.

The 15-time major champion carded a five-under 67 - with four birdies on the back nine - in an effort that was matched by Justin Thomas, also on 11 under in a three-way tie for third alongside Jon Rahm.

Justin Rose surged into contention with four birdies over the first six holes, but he tailed away to card a 71, leaving him seven behind Woodland.

Jordan Spieth belatedly moved under par for the week - two under - with a 69, while Bryson DeChambeau also shot his best round of the week, a 70, but remained over par.

Calum Hill produced an impressive round of 64 to move into a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Mauritius Open.

Starting on the back nine, the Scotsman registered seven birdies through 12 holes to push himself firmly in contention for a first tournament win on the European Tour in just his sixth start.

His rapid rise up the leaderboard hit a snag with a bogey at the sixth, though he gained that shot back at the next before finishing with another birdie at his last hole to reach 12 under par.

"The last couple of days the game has been nice. I managed to get the putter going well today, which added up to a good score," Hill told the European Tour's website.

Brandon Stone had finished the opening round in a five-way tie for top spot and remains in the running, the South African signing for a 67 to sit in a three-man group on 11 under.

He shares second place with Belgian Thomas Detry and France's Matthieu Pavon, the former aided by an eagle at the par-five 14th for a second successive day.

American Sihwan Kim and Scotland's Connor Syme sat a shot further back on 10 under, along with French duo Antoine Rozner and Benjamin Hebert.

Paul Casey surged into contention at the Australian Open as Matt Jones took a one-stroke lead at the halfway mark on Friday.

Casey fired a six-under 65 in the second round at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney to get to nine under and put himself in position for a third win of 2019.

The Englishman is tied for second with last year's runner-up Dimitrios Papadatos (66), the duo sitting a shot behind Jones (65).

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Championship winner, carded a five-under 66 to be in a five-man group tied for fourth at eight under.

American Cameron Tringale (65), the world's top-ranked amateur Takumi Kanaya (69), Australian Shae Wools-Cobb (65) and New Zealander Denzel Ieremia (65) are also two shots behind the leader.

Marc Leishman sits in a tie for 12th at six under, while defending champion Abraham Ancer is a further two shots back.

However, 2009 champion Adam Scott missed the cut after failing to recover from his opening-round 75, shooting a 67 to finish even par and one stroke from making the weekend.

Patrick Reed carded a second consecutive 66 to move three shots clear at the Hero World Challenge as Tiger Woods surged into contention.

Reed had shared the overnight lead with U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, whose run of three birdies to finish kept him in the hunt.

But 15-time major winner Woods was the big mover as he shrugged off Wednesday's erratic showing to close the gap to six strokes at the halfway point.

Defending champion Jon Rahm and 2016 Open winner Henrik Stenson are two shots better off than Woods, having signed for 66 and 67 respectively. 

Woods was blemish-free in round two, in stark contrast to the four bogeys and a double which spoiled Wednesday's 18 holes.

He felt the conditions made low scoring much easier and was pleased to take advantage.

"I think it was just less windy,'' he said in quotes reported by ESPN. "It was a little bit easier. Scoring conditions were a little bit better.

"I didn't hit the ball as well as I would like starting out... but I got it going on the back nine, which is nice.''

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