When Patrick Reed’s mobile phone burst into life, halfway through the night in an Inverness hotel room, his understandable and immediate emotion was concern.
Instead, Reed was being informed by all and sundry that he was in the United States Olympic golf team, owing to the sudden withdrawal of Dustin Johnson.
This, presumably, was good news for Reed. During pre-tournament media duties at the Scottish Open, he spoke effusively about golf and Rio. “If one of them happened to pull out then I will definitely be playing,” Reed said on Wednesday. “Any time I can wear stars and stripes, I do it. If I get the call tomorrow, I’ll be on the flight. It doesn’t matter to me where it is, when it is.”
This could barely have been more emphatic. Playing six holes of his third round here in the same number under par rather endorsed the theory that a spring was suddenly in Reed’s step. Instead, and fascinatingly, his tone had changed by the time he signed for a 67. The 25-year-old is clearly wavering over Olympic participation, and leaving sufficient wriggle room, now it has become a reality.
“As far as I know, I’m going to go and play,” Reed said. “But at the end of the day, I need to go and talk to the whole family and talk to my team and make sure it’s the right decision. We have to weigh our options and make the right decision. I wouldn’t really say I have doubts. It’s just something that I need to weigh and talk to [Reed’s wife] Justine and talk to everybody about.
“My phone was blowing up at 3.30, 4am this morning. I didn’t know what was going on. When the phone starts blowing up at that hour, I’m kind of sitting there thinking: ‘What’s going on at home, did something happen?’”
National pride will clearly be a factor in Reed’s thinking. “I would love to play for my country,” he said. “There are all the factors you know: security, Zika, everything. But at the same time, you know me, I’m a competitor, and whenever I can play for my country, I’m going to do it.”
Johnson joined the list of those citing Zika as the motivation not to travel to the Games, and become the first American golfer to withdraw. “This was not an easy decision for me, but my concerns about the Zika virus cannot be ignored,” the US Open champion said. “I believe I am making the right decision for me and, most importantly, my family.”
On this side of the Atlantic, Reed was adamant that such a stance should be respected. “All the guys that have withdrawn and decided not to play, they are all for good reasons,” he insisted. “It’s not like they are just pulling out and saying, ‘Oh well, I just don’t feel like playing that week.’ That’s far from the truth. There’s a lot of good reasons. That’s why I feel like whoever it is or whatever country, they have to respect that decision from their players.”
Reed believes that golf’s return to the Olympics, which is secure only for this year and 2020 in Tokyo, should not be irreparably harmed by those choosing not to appear. “If there were not any question marks, I would say it would put a hit on golf,” he said. “But there’s a lot of question marks being the first year it’s back in the Olympics and with those question marks, I don’t feel like it’s going to hurt the game.”
In the context of this tournament, Reed was happy to say that he benefited from a Highland breeze that changed direction from rounds one and two. The impact was on Castle Stuart’s early holes, which suddenly became a lot easier. “Really, I felt like I hit the ball better yesterday than today,” Reed said. “Today, I happened to get a really hot start.”
With the Open Championship looming, Henrik Stenson chose an opportune time to card his lowest round of the week, a Saturday 66. Nicolas Colsaerts, looking to secure one of the final places in the Open, matched that score. Sweden’s Alex Noren will start day four holding a two-shot lead at 12 under par but barring something miraculous Phil Mickelson will not win a second Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, after his 70 left him 11 shots off the pace.
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