Patrick Reed prepares for raucous reception at famed 17th

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Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed of the United States gives the thumbs up after winning the WGC-Mexico Championship golf tournament, at the Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Patrick Reed has a plan for the famed par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

“Just hit it in the middle of the green and take your medicine,” he said following his final practice round Wednesday before The Players Championship.

Reed was referring to his scorecard. He might as well have been talking about his spectators.

Reed is sure to hear some cheers and more jeers at one of golf’s most notorious holes, the one where casual fans spend countless hours drinking and raucously rooting for balls to find the murky water. The island green has taken center stage at the Stadium Course for decades and become a hot spot for hecklers.

And with Reed having become public enemy No. 1 on the PGA Tour, his first trek at No. 17 could be comical or cringe-worthy.

Reed insists nothing said would bother him.

“When I’m out there and I get inside the ropes, I’m full-on focusing about golf,” he said, adding that he spends a considerable amount of time discussing shots with his caddie and brother-in-law, Kessler Karain. “That’s all the preparation we do during the week is to figure out, ‘OK, what greens are faster than others? What putts are faster than others and vice versa?’

“And, for us, we get so in tuned in golf that everything that goes on around us, it doesn’t matter. We’re out there to grind and to go out and play good golf.”

What dogs Reed is a moment in the third round at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, when his ball was in an awful lie in the waste area on the 11th hole. Video clearly showed him twice swiping away sand behind his ball. In the scoring room afterward, Reed accepted the two-shot penalty, all while saying a different camera angle would have shown his club wasn’t as close to the ball as it looked and he didn’t know his club touched the sand. Twice.

“Well, winning always helps everything,” he said. “But, really, at the end of the day, the noise goes away once y’all decide it goes away. I feel like the players and all of us have moved on, but at the end of the day all we can do is go out and continue playing good golf and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Reed’s hecklers came across loud and clear last weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

As Reed walked down the eighth fairway at Bay Hill on Saturday, one fan encouraged him to, “Use your favorite club — the foot wedge,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. On the 16th fairway, a fan was ejected for yelling at Reed, “Don’t hit in the water, cheater!”

Fellow PGA Tour player Cameron Smith spoke out against Reed ahead of the Presidents Cup, where Reed was heckled so badly that Karain had an altercation with a fan and was suspended from caddying in the final session.

In his next PGA Tour start, Reed was in a three-man playoff at Kapalua. On his final putt in the playoff, which Justin Thomas won, a fan cried out, “cheater!” as the ball was on its way. Reed said he never heard the man.

In San Diego in late January, the heckling got so bad that Reed asked security to remove a fan.

“I think the PGA Tour has done a great job on the security and the fans,” Reed said. “I feel like, as a whole, the fans have been pretty good. You’re always going to get a couple people here and there that are going to say something. That’s normal, any sport you play.

“For me, when I get behind the ropes and I get inside those ropes, it’s I have a job to do and that’s go out and play good golf and to have a chance to win on Sundays and to provide for my family and to go out and represent myself the best way I can, and I feel like I’ve been doing that.”

The par-3 17th could prove to be Reed’s toughest test yet.

Reed has finished outside the top 20 in six starts at The Players, including missing the cut twice. The Pete Dye-designed course is demanding and the two finishing holes can be downright daunting, even without hecklers.

“I’ve always played that hole somewhat conservative,” Reed said. “I’ve never really taken on too many of those flags. … For me, it’s just kind of put the ball in the middle of the green and let my putter try to work.”

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