Another battle between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed began to take shape Wednesday.
As one of the most vocal critics of the LIV Golf breakaway league, McIlroy felt mentally drained at the end of last year and decided to put his clubs away for a few weeks.
“It’s been nice,” the top-ranked McIlroy said, “to try to take a little bit of time away, and try to sort of distance myself from the game of golf.”
Now he’s back and appears to be as fiery as ever.
McIlroy was on the driving range Tuesday at the Dubai Desert Classic when he was approached by Reed, one of the high-profile players to have joined the exodus to the Saudi-backed series that changed the face of golf in 2022.
McIlroy said he was busy practicing and didn’t feel the need to acknowledge Reed.
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“Patrick came up to say hello and I didn’t really want him to,” McIlroy said Wednesday.
McIlroy was asked about reports the American threw a tee toward him. The four-time major winner said he didn’t see or feel anything.
“But apparently that’s what happened,” McIlroy said. “And if roles were reversed and I’d have thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting him (to file) a lawsuit.”
McIlroy said he was served a subpoena on Christmas Eve from Larry Klayman, an attorney who has filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour and European tour for suspending players who have signed with LIV Golf. Reed is not involved in that lawsuit.
Klayman also represents Reed in lawsuits filed against a number of media outlets.
“Of course, trying to have a nice time with my family and someone shows up on your doorstep and delivers that, you’re not going to take that well,” McIlroy said.
It’s clear McIlroy is in no mood for reconciliation in Dubai.
“So again, I’m living in reality, I don’t know where he’s living. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake.”
Reed, in a statement provided by Klayman, wanted to make clear he had nothing to do with the subpoena McIlroy received.
“So, McIlroy being upset about being served on Christmas Eve has absolutely nothing to do with Patrick Reed,” the statement said. “So we don’t know what world McIlroy is living in, but we live in the real world, and to try to lay blame on Patrick Reed or being upset with Patrick for being subpoenaed for a lawsuit that Patrick Reed is not a part of is simply ignorant.”
Reed said in Dubai it was “unfortunate” that McIlroy didn’t shake his hand.
“But it is one of those things — if you’re going to act like an immature little child then you might as well be treated like one,” Reed was quoted as saying by British newspaper The Daily Mail.
Reed said he “flicked” a tee toward McIlroy because it had a logo of the 4 Aces, his team in LIV Golf, on it.
“It was kind of a funny shot back,” Reed said.
Reed and McIlroy had a memorable singles match in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, which Reed won. They also were in the final round at the 2018 Masters, where Reed had a three-shot lead and went on to win. The Masters is the one major McIlroy has not won.
McIlroy was later asked if it would be beneficial to “fix your relationship” with another LIV rebel, Sergio Garcia, if it would help Europe’s cause ahead of this year’s Ryder Cup.
“No,” was the Northern Irishman’s blunt response.
The toll taken on McIlroy for effectively being an anti-LIV spokesman didn’t stop him returning to the top of the world ranking at the end of last year.
His last competitive tournament was the World Tour Championship, which was also in Dubai, in November.
McIlroy said the break gave him the opportunity to “recharge and reset and try to start 2023 with renewed optimism,” and he is back in the Middle East with some unfinished business.
In last year’s Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy was in a share of the lead after 71 holes but bogeyed the par-5 No. 18 on Sunday after hitting his second shot into the water in front of the green. He finished a shot behind Viktor Hovland and Richard Bland, and Hovland wound up winning a playoff.
“Wasn’t quite the way I wanted to finish it off,” McIlroy said. “But you know, I went on from that week and played really well and had a great year.”
McIlroy is a two-time winner of the event — in 2009, which was his first title as a pro at the age of 19, and in 2015 — and enjoys coming to this part of the world.
“I’ve been coming here for a long time, 17 years,” he said. “I’ve got a level of comfort here. I like starting my year here. I have a lot of friends. I called this place home for four years.”
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