By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Patrick Reed had dug himself a hole before arriving at the Presidents Cup, his two-stroke penalty for flinging some sand away with his wedge in a waste bunker stoking controversy and putting a big target on his back at Royal Melbourne.
By the third day the American was staring into the abyss, losing a third straight match with Webb Simpson and seeing his caddie ejected for clashing with a heckler.
On Sunday, however, Reed clawed his way back onto solid ground by thrashing Taiwan's C.T. Pan 4&2 and ended up celebrating his third Presidents Cup triumph after wins in 2015 and 2017.
It was a nice way to finish a mostly dreadful week for the Texan, who has been dogged by allegations of cheating since the incident at captain Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last week.
Penalised for improving his lie in the waste bunker at the charity event, Reed was adamant his error was inadvertent but that did little to appease the critics.
The Internationals players, eager to spice up the American's welcome, lined up to take shots at him and the 29-year-old was jeered from the first tee on Thursday, the gallery roaring in delight when his first shot rolled into a bunker.
Spectators waved toy shovels and yelled taunts as he crashed to three straight losses with Simpson over the ensuing days.
His caddie, brother-in-law Kessler Karain, finally snapped after the third defeat on Saturday and clashed with a spectator as he and Reed drove a golf cart back to the clubhouse.
On the following overcast morning, Reed came back to Royal Melbourne with his swing coach carrying his bag and quietened the hecklers with six birdies in his first seven holes before closing out a rousing win over Pan.
"You make birdies, you don't hear much," said Reed.
"When you're not up (in) your matches, the other team, the crowd will get more vocal.
"If you get up in your match, the crowd will be pretty quiet. I was able to do that and silence a couple."
Reed was one of the U.S. captain's picks, a brave choice given he lost both his matches partnered with Woods in last year's Ryder Cup defeat to Europe and publicly criticised the team's selections and performance at Le Golf National.
For Woods, though, it was a case of picking a player who bled "red, white and blue" and would keep swinging hard until the end, no matter how hopeless the cause.
"I think the biggest thing is just to continue grinding and not let the crowds or let people get in the way of what you're trying to do, and that's play golf," said Reed.
"You know, the past couple days were tough, and you know, today still wasn't easy.
"The biggest thing was to come out today and continue playing some solid golf ... get a crucial point early in the day to help the team."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)