MELBOURNE (Reuters) – United States captain Tiger Woods on Tuesday said he does not expect teammate Patrick Reed to be subjected to abuse by fans at the upcoming Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, after the golfer was penalized last week for breaching the rules.
Woods has been bombarded with questions about the 2018 Masters champion since touching down in Australia on Monday, with the assembled media seemingly uninterested in anyone else.
This follows an incident in which Reed received a two-stroke penalty for improving his lie in a bunker on Friday at the Hero World Challenge hosted by Woods in the Bahamas.
Woods addressed the matter on Monday and fielded questions again on Tuesday morning when he and International counterpart Ernie Els addressed a news conference at the course ahead of the Melbourne event, which begins on Thursday.
“I’m sure somebody’s going to say something out there, but I think that in general, all the times I have been to Australia and have played here, the fans have been fantastic,” said 15-times major champion Woods.
“They are the most knowledgeable, the most excitable fans. They love their sport.”
Woods also said he did not think Reed would be fazed by any extra scrutiny.
“Pat will be fine,” said playing captain Woods. “Pat is a great kid. He’s handled a tough upbringing well, and I just think that he’s one of our best team players and is one of the reasons why all of the guys wanted him on the team.”
Over the weekend, International’s Australian team members, Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman, said Reed had set himself up as an obvious target for the galleries this week.
“These guys are competitors. Obviously they didn’t like what they saw,” said South African Els, who played on the victorious 1998 International team at Royal Melbourne.
“Like Tiger, we’re moving on; we’ve got a Cup to play for. It’s got nothing to do with us… I think Tiger’s dealing with it and Patrick’s dealing with that.”
While the American team will be jet-lagged, at least for the first couple of days, Woods expressed confidence that his players would be better prepared than the outfit that got thumped at the venue 21 years ago.
But Els nonetheless is hoping to catch the Americans napping, figuratively if not literally.
“We’d like to kick their arses this week here at home,” he said.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Christopher Cushing)