Rory McIlroy says weekend rules controversy wouldn't be "a big deal if it wasn’t Patrick Reed"
While the controversy following Patrick Reed's rules incident at the weekend continues to cause waves in the sport, Rory McIlroy offered up a different opinion to the situation.
Reed, who was caught by TV camera's improving his lie in a waste bunker during the third round of the Hero World Challenge on Friday, had come under fire from the likes of International Presidents Cup member Cameron Smith, who said he didn't "have any sympathy for anyone that cheats."
"I hope the crowd absolutely gives it to not only him, but everyone [on the American team] next week," Smith had said at the Australian Open, before criticising Reed's reasoning that the camera angle was misleading.
"If you make a mistake maybe once, you could maybe understand, but to give a bit of a bulls**t response like the camera angle ... that's pretty up there."
But World No.2 Rory McIlroy says the reaction wouldn't have been as strong if it had been any other player but Reed, and that he thinks we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt.
“I think it’s hard because you try to give the player the benefit of the doubt,” McIlroy told Golf Channel’s Morning Drive during an interview on Monday.
“He’s in there and he’s trying to figure out which way to play the shot. Obviously he’s moved some sand so it is a penalty. But I keep saying, I don’t think it would be a big deal if it wasn’t Patrick Reed. It’s almost like a lot of people within the game, it’s almost like a hobby to sort of kick him when he’s down.
"I've had great interactions with Patrick. I certainly don't think there was intent there.
"It's very hard for me not to think that he didn't feel what he was doing, it's just a hard one. Again, I'd rather try to give someone the benefit of the doubt and just say look, it was a mistake, take your penalty, move on.
"It’s going to make things really difficult down in Australia for him."
The World No.2 was then asked if his opinion changed given the other video surrounding the incident, and McIlroy said he chooses to believe in the spirit of integrity in the game.
"I know. It’s almost like it’s obliviousness to it rather than actually anything (intentional) in terms of trying to get away with something," McIlroy said.
"I think it’s just his, it’s his pre-shot routine nearly. I don’t know. It’s not right, it obviously doesn’t make it right what he did. I just keep saying, if it wasn't Patrick Reed I don't think it would have been as big a deal as it's been made out to be.
“It’s a tough one. I’d never want to think a competitor is intentionally trying to improve a lie. I think we could all give him the benefit of the doubt one time, twice maybe, and then we can move on. If he's learnt his lesson and doesn't do it again, I guess that's a good thing."