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Rory McIlroy defends blanking Patrick Reed in Dubai tee-throwing incident | Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy defends blanking Patrick Reed in Dubai tee-throwing incident |  Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy has insisted he was well within his rights to ignore Patrick Reed on a Dubai driving range after reports surfaced that the American had tossed a golf tee at the world No 1 in disgust. McIlroy revealed he was served court papers by Reed at his Florida home on Christmas Eve.

Reed approached McIlroy on Monday at the Dubai Desert Classic but was blanked by the Northern Irishman. McIlroy was unaware of any subsequent object throwing but used his pre-tournament press conference to explain his stance towards Reed.

“Patrick came up to say hello and I didn’t really want him to,” McIlroy said. “From my recollection, that was it. I didn’t see a tee. I didn’t feel a tee. Obviously someone else saw that. But it’s definitely a storm in a teacup. I can’t believe it’s actually turned into a story, it’s nothing.

“I was subpoenaed by his lawyer on Christmas Eve. 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.

“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 has launched a defamation case against the Golf Channel and its analyst Brandel Chamblee, whom he alleges conspired with the PGA Tour’s commissioner Jay Monahan to defame him. Reed’s lawyers have not responded to a request from the Guardian for comment about this week’s incident, but the player himself denies throwing the tee at his fellow player.

McIlroy added: “I was down by my bag and he came up to me. I was busy working and sort of doing my practice. I didn’t feel the need to acknowledge him.

“I didn’t see a tee coming my direction at all, but apparently that’s what happened. And if roles were reversed and I’d have thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting a lawsuit.”

This bizarre affair dominated discussion ahead of McIlroy’s first competitive start of 2023. There was, naturally, also chat about LIV Golf after it emerged the breakaway tour’s commissioner Greg Norman is to be handed extra powers. LIV, the domain on which Reed now plays, has been hit by two high-profile resignations since its maiden season ended in October.

“If the chief executive doesn’t have an executive team, I don’t know how strong that is,” McIlroy said. “He can’t do it himself. He needs to rely on a team just like all of us rely on teams to do things. If you are sort of operating solo, it starts to get pretty difficult.”

Last year saw McIlroy emerge as the regular, unofficial spokesperson for golf’s traditional tours as LIV attempted to coax players towards Saudi Arabian millions.

“There’s no point in just being a mouthpiece when you can’t back that up by playing good golf and showing people the rewards people can have out here if they are playing well,” said the 33-year-old. “It’s a merit-based system. That’s the thing that I’ve always struggled with: if a five-year-old boy or girl knows that they work hard and they shoot the scores, there’s a merit-based system in golf all the way through junior golf, amateur golf, all the way up to the professional level and they can make it to the top levels of the game.

“This is the one thing that has come into the game that has disrupted that. It’s not a merit-based system.”

Two wins in as many PGA Tour tournaments for Jon Rahm has reignited discussion over the validity of golf’s ranking system. Rahm is currently the world No 3. Rather than stoke the debate, McIlroy heaped praise on the Spaniard.

“We all know Jon is one of the best players in the world,” said McIlroy. “Whether there’s one beside his name or two beside his name, it doesn’t really matter. He’s won four of his last six events. He’s playing some of the best golf he’s played in his career. He didn’t have a long career, but all of his career, he played consistently at a very, very high level. It has been an amazing start to the year.”

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