Reed and McIlroy make promising starts after Dubai Desert Classic row

By Sports Desk January 26, 2023

Rivals Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed made positive starts to the Dubai Desert Classic after heavy rain caused play on day one to be delayed by over six hours.

World number one McIlroy was involved in an eve-of-tournament spat with American Reed, who labelled the Northern Irishman an "immature little child" for blanking him at the practice range. Reed was also alleged to have thrown a tee at McIlroy.

McIlroy said Reed's lawyer served him with court papers on Christmas Eve, although Reed has said he was not behind the subpoena, with the case concerned being one brought by American attorney Larry Klayman relating to divisions between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

"I'm living in reality. I don't know where he’s living," McIlroy said of his snub for Reed, one of the players who has signed up or LIV Golf. "If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't expect a hello or a handshake."

They could yet end up as playing partners later this week, which would be awkward, and Reed sped out to four under par through 16 holes once play finally got under way on Thursday, before bad light halted players in their tracks.

McIlroy, who began on the back nine, was playing his 16th hole when he abandoned for the day, having reached two under and given himself a great birdie opportunity, leaving himself a five-foot putt for the morning at the par-three seventh.

Playing partner Ryan Fox missed out on a hole in one when his tee shot to the same hole, bang on target, rolled up just six inches short. The New Zealander tapped that in to go to three under.

That put Fox into a share of eighth place, with McIlroy tied for 12th.

Belgium's Thomas Pieters led on five under through 15 holes, one ahead of a group of six, with Reed, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Frenchman Victor Perez approaching the end of their rounds, while Matthew Jordan, Daniel Gavins and Oliver Wilson reached the clubhouse. Gavins made bogey after a missed putt at the last, electing to play on after the hooter and forfeiting a share of the lead.

Only 66 players of the 132 in the tournament got going on Thursday, meaning Friday was set to be busy, with those left with holes to complete set to start at 08:00 local time (04:00 GMT), and the rest of the field beginning their first rounds at 08:20, with second rounds to follow.

Padraig Harrington was having a dismal round, with the former Open and US PGA champion at eight over after 13 holes.

After a challenging weather day, leader Pieters said of the course: "I think it played fair. Obviously they guarded against some of the conditions, and they moved a few tees forward on holes like 12, where you normally are hitting long irons, and you're hitting short wedges. If you found fairways and had ball-in-hand, it was definitely playable."

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    The PGA of America confirmed Bradley's appointment on Monday after Tiger Woods decided against leading the team at Bethpage Black golf course in New York.

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    "It's certainly a departure from what the US have done over the last few years, and time will tell if that's a good thing or not."

    Asked if serving as a player and captain at the same time can ever work, McIlroy revealed he has rejected the chance to take on such a role for the 2027 event, which takes place in County Limerick, Ireland. 

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    "There's no way you can be as good a captain as you need to be and be a playing captain as well. If you want to be the best captain you can be, you can't play. 

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    "Keegan is the 19th-ranked in the world so he has a great chance of making the team. If he does, I think he's going to have to give that captaincy role to one of the vice-captains."

    Europe will look to win the Ryder Cup on American soil for the first time since 2012 next year, with the event starting on September 25.

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