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The Week of Reed Versus Rory Reminds Us Again Why Pro Golf is Better With Black Hats

The Dubai Desert Classic delivered from the range to the final round, Alex Miceli writes, thanks to the presence of one of golf's biggest lightning rods.

How entertaining was the final round of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic?

It offered absorbing content, a storyline that has survived through the ages, a good-versus-evil plotline and of course the twisting subplots that danced around, unsaid and uncovered by the announcers, but still there like a neon sign.

Of course, none of this would have mattered a hoot if not for the stars of the show, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed.

Literally no other two players could have made the event what it was.

Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed are pictured at the 2023 Dubai Desert Classic.

Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed were the perfect match for a week of delicious storylines in Dubai, and left us wanting more.

Even Tiger Woods playing McIlroy last weekend would not have been as compelling. There is only one Patrick Reed.

It would be disingenuous to not talk a little about the backstory that made Monday’s finale so scintillating. It all started when Reed was on the range at the Emirates Golf Club on Tuesday. Supposedly Reed, who was totally ignored by McIlroy, walked away in disgust and threw a tee in the direction of the world no. 1.

You would have thought the Hindenburg had just blown up or that a major leader was attacked by the amount of digital ink, fuzzy photos and videos that came out of the woodwork for an incident that was not even an incident.

But right there, Reed’s villain status was again validated.

And for a whole day we discussed ad nauseam what would eventually be called "Tee-Gate" by some. This just enhanced the storyline of good and evil that would play out over four days.

Ever since Reed, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia defected to LIV Golf, they have been largely viewed as pariahs by those who stayed behind.

Oddly enough, (a little snicker here) Reed has been one of the most vocal about his decision and McIlroy has been very vociferous about his complete disdain for LIV and its members.

Does that mean if Reed was replaced by Johnson, Garcia or Westwood, the tenor of the week or the storyline on Monday would have been as entertaining? Not by a country mile.

Remember, when the second round was suspended due to darkness, Poulter and Richard Bland were atop the leaderboard and not a snicker was uttered.

Reed, who earned the moniker Captain America in his first Ryder Cup, is a lightning rod for controversy, both on and off the course.

Outside of the fact he is a pretty darn good golfer, he is equally or maybe even better at being the villain.

He takes the role to a new level. Maybe even makes it an art form.

With various rules imbroglios and multiple lawsuits against reporters and cable networks, Reed is clearly the blackest hat on any professional tour.

Reed added to the intrigue of the weekend with a rules issue on the 17th hole on Sunday’s third round when his tee shot found a tree. Reed and an official looked up into the tree—perhaps not the correct one—and Reed identified what he believed was his ball, taking a penalty drop at the base of the tree instead of going back to the tee for a lost-ball penalty.

McIlroy defended Reed after winning Monday but it didn’t matter, most see Reed and controversy and just think "cheater."

And like "Tee-Gate," Reed took most of the headlines on Sunday after the round by reporters and pundits.

The other side of the story is the hero, Ulsterman McIlroy.

Clean as the driven snow, McIlroy has been a fan favorite dating to his teenage days in Northern Ireland, when he had a mop of curly hair and was adored by the faithful who came to see him perform at the Walker Cup at Royal County Down.

Even then, McIlroy had that fan-favorite quality that would evolve into star qualities.

He has also been one of the biggest advocates of a LIV-free golf ecosystem, one where the departed are left to their own devices while top players on the PGA and European Tours can continue to pocket millions of dollars without having to deal with the likes of Reed or Bryson DeChambeau.

Many of the LIV-free-environment supporters joke about the shotgun start and 54-hole events, suggesting that what is played at LIV is not golf and that those players are no longer good enough to compete in a real event played over 72 holes.

Oddly enough, beyond the fact that McIlroy took Reed down in the end with a 20-footer for birdie, critics of LIV may have to change their tune after the last putt dropped in Dubai.

With Reed's runner-up finish and top-10 finishes by Poulter, Stenson and Bland, it’s clear that golf is actually played at LIV events and that these players, if given an opportunity, can compete.

In some ways, it's similar to when Polish pilots escaped to England during the early stages of World War II and were denied access to fighters to assist in the Battle of Britain.

It seemed the hierarchy of RAF Fighter Command, led by Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, didn’t think that Polish pilots had the same abilities as English flyers. Eventually when English boys were dying at too high a rate, the Poles were pushed into service and arguably turned the tide.

What is happening with LIV and professional golf is not a life-or-death struggle, far from it.  It’s mostly just millionaires fighting with other millionaires about money.

Luckily, a compelling golf tournament broke out over four days in Dubai with a perfect storyline, and it proved we need villains as much as we need heroes in professional golf.

The Patrick Reeds of the golf world spice things up in a game that can get stale.

Reed will always be Reed and we don’t want anything different—in fact our sport arguably needs him and others that aren't so strait-laced. It's entertainment, which is what every tour is selling and what we experienced on Monday—though we were left wanting more.

Be honest: didn’t you want Rory to miss that birdie putt on the 18th and then have a Reed vs. McIlroy playoff?

Of course you did.