The Villain at the Hero World Challenge: Patrick Reed returns to the scene of his penalty incident

The American has a sensational record playing at Albany in Tiger Woods’ event, but he earned most publicity when earning a two shot penalty in 2019.

The taint of cheating in golf is, in normal life, a bit like the presence of dog poo in your trainer tread.

It's hard to get rid of.

It smells bad.

It doesn't win you many friends.

And it's a fearfully messy business trying to clear it all up.

For Patrick Reed you wonder if the latter element is even a consideration because this is a man whose imperviousness to controversy is perhaps unparalleled in the world of golf - at literally every stage of his career he has prompted strife.

He left his first college, Georgia University, under a cloud, accused of cheating and stealing. Kevin Kisner told Golf Digest: "They all hate him. Any guys that were on the team with him hate him and that's the same way at Augusta. I don't know that they'd piss on him if he was on fire, to tell you the truth."

Reed transferred to Augusta, but it didn't go much better. Henrik Norlander, a team-mate there, has made it very clear that they are not friends, hinting at more trouble.

This inability to get on with others had become clear long before college. In his book 'Chasing the Legends' Shane Ryan writes that Reed's father was concerned his son would introduce himself thus: "I'm Patrick Reed, and I'll kick the shit out of you at golf any time you want."

By the time he had left Augusta State, Reed was estranged from his family and not invited to his wedding with Justine, his new and biggest supporter. She, it was reported, even had police officers escort his parents from the premises at the 2012 US Open.

A two-time winner on the PGA Tour in early 2014 he then committed a crime second only to cheating in professional golf: becoming full of himself.

When he won the 2014 Cadillac Championship - an impressive achievement, no doubt - he talked of his excellent college record and three wins before saying: "I just don't see a lot of guys that have done that, besides Tiger Woods, of course, and, the other legends of the game. It's just one of those things, I believe in myself and, especially with how hard I've worked, I'm one of the top five players in the world."

He was, even after the win, ranked 20th in the world. It was a bold call to assume yourself better than that: he had announced himself as the sport's new king of courting controversy and he's never relented.

He happily christened himself Captain America in the Ryder Cup, cheerfully beating up Europeans and also falling out with his team-mates.

At this year's Farmers Insurance Open he picked up his ball before speaking to a referee about a drop, all of it played out on TV.

He got his drop and there was no penalty, but his reputation had gone before him and Twitter was ablaze.

As with so much else in his golfing life, Reed appeared not remotely concerned that he was causing havoc - if anything it appeared to fuel the fire and he won the tournament.

Yet, of all these shenanigans, it is perhaps what happened at the 2019 Hero World Challenge which casts the longest shadow, at least in the professional game.

Ahead of his return this week, let's reminds ourselves of the event and the fall out from it.

Bunkered

The annual event at Albany in the Bahamas is not high pressure - it's a glorified hit and giggle, and during the third round Reed gained the tournament more publicity than it normally gets.

His drive on the 11th hole found sand and, after his second shot, the TV production crew started to look more closely at how he had placed his club behind the ball while preparing, and considering, his shot.

"If that's not improving your lie, I don't know what is," said commentator Paul Azinger. "He knows better. I don't know why that happened or what he was thinking."

He was docked two shots after the round, criticism was widespread, and footage of a similar incident at the 2015 tournament also emerged.

Commentator Peter Kostis weighs in

Early in the New Year TV commentator Peter Kostis went on the No Laying Up podcast and was unequivocal about what he had historically seen on the course.

"I've seen Patrick Reed improve his lie up close and personal four times now," he said. "You can go on YouTube. It's the only time I've ever shut Gary McCord up. He didn't know what to say when I said, 'The lie that I saw originally wouldn't have allowed for this shot.'

"Because he put four, five clubs behind the ball, kind of faking whether he's going to hit this shot or that shot. And (in the end) he hit a freaking 3-wood out of there, which, when I saw it, it was a sand wedge layup originally, right?

"There was another incident at Hartford and another incident at San Diego. I was there and I saw them all.

"I'm not even sure he knows that he's doing it, sometimes. Maybe he does, I don't know."

Brooks Koepka in no doubt

It was a similar story for Brooks Koepka. When he went on Sirius XM PGA Tour radio in early 2020, the four-time Major Champion was asked if he thought Reed had cheated.

"Yeah, I think yeah," he said. "I don't know what he was doing, building sandcastles in the sand?

"You know where your club is. I mean I took three months off and I can promise you I know if I touched sand. It's one of those things where you know.

"If you look at the video, he grazes the sand twice and then he still chops down on it."

Reed's record at Albany

As we've seen with his win at Torrey Pines earlier this year, Reed is not fazed by being unpopular.

So can he win this week?

Based on course form alone, he definitely has a chance.

He finished second in 2016, 10th in 2017, tied fifth in 2018 and third two years ago (without his two shot penalty he would have tied the lead and forced a play-off with Henrik Stenson, albeit without the penalty everything else in the final 36 holes would have played out differently).

He'll also have good memories of the last time he flew east to a beautiful island because he was second at the Bermuda Championship a month ago.

He's also still got a bee in his bonnet about not playing the Ryder Cup in September so the presence of so many of his (non) team-mates and opponents in this week's field might provide potent motivation.

READ MORE: Profiles of the field for this year’s Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods

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