Third-round co-leader Patrick Reed found himself dealing with another rules issue on Saturday at the Farmers Insurance Open when he sought relief for an embedded ball — that television replays show had first bounced — and then picked up the ball before a rules official could arrive.
Reed, the 2018 Masters champion who had cheating accusations dog him after an incident at the 2019 Hero World Challenge, had pulled his approach shot from a fairway bunker into the left rough at the 10th hole at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
A ball embedded anywhere through the green except for sandy areas is entitled to a free drop, which is what Reed sought. But replays showed the ball had first bounced before settling into the rough.
CBS analyst Nick Faldo questioned how a ball could embed — or plug — if it had first bounced.
Due to heavy rain at the tournament, the round was being played with preferred lies, or “lift, clean and place.” But that applies only to balls that are in the fairway.
Shelton and Gordon told Golf Channel after the round that Reed did tell them he was going to mark and check to see if it was embedded.
“The ball just disappeared. None of us saw it bounce,” Reed said after the round. “I looked at my group and said, ‘Guys, she didn’t see it bounce it, either, so I’m going to mark this ball and see if it’s embedded.’
“Once I marked it, the first thing I wanted to do was make sure I got the ball out of my hand because you don’t want to clean it or anything because you don’t know if it’s embedded yet.”
Reed could be heard telling the rules official that his ball had not bounced, but he declined to look at television replays. “I checked it and I believe it broke ground,” Reed said to Tour rules official Brad Fabel. “Since I picked it up to check, it seemed it broke ground. They said it didn’t bounce.”
Reed said in a post-round interview that a tournament volunteer told him the ball did not bounce; and he explained that he picked up the ball and marked it because nobody saw the ball bounce, and he was trying to determine if it had been embedded. When Fabel checked the area, he determined that Reed was allowed relief.
That gave Reed the ability to clean the ball, and drop it within a club length. He got the ball up and down for a par and is tied for the lead with Carlos Ortiz after shooting a third-round 70.
“When you have three players, three caddies, and a volunteer who’s really close to the golf ball not see the ball bounce, you have to go by what everyone sees and what everyone saw,” Reed said after the round. “And when no one was seeing that, then the rules official basically has to say whether it’s free relief or not, and the rules official agreed that the ball broke the plane and it was relief.
“It’s an unfortunate situation obviously, but at the end of the day, when you finish the round and the head rules official comes up to you and has the video and shows everything that went down to the whole group and says that you’ve done this perfectly, you did this the exact right way, the protocols you did were spot on — at that point, I feel great about it.”
Rules official Ken Tackett explained during the CBS broadcast that since it was determined the ball had embedded, it didn’t matter if it had first bounced. Faldo questioned that, and CBS lead broadcaster Jim Nantz called it a “bad look.”
Reed said he “definitely” is scrutinized more than other players under these types of situations because of past events.
“It is an unfortunate thing to happen today, but at the same time, it’s exactly what I would’ve done every time,” Reed said. “… When you have the rules officials and everybody come up and say that you did it textbook and you did it exactly how you’re supposed to do, then that’s all you can do.
“I mean, when we’re out there and we’re playing, we can’t see everything. That’s why you rely on the other players, the other opponents, you rely on the volunteers as well as the rules officials. And when they all say that what we’ve done is the right thing, then you move on and you go on. The great thing is I still have a chance to win a golf tournament. So now it’s go out tomorrow and put the foot down and try to make as many birdies as possible.”
At the 2019 Hero World Challenge, Reed came under immense scrutiny after it was determined he had “improved his lie” in a waste area when dragging his club back while taking practice swings. He was later assessed a 2-stroke penalty, and afterward accepted the penalty but maintained a different camera angle would have exonerated him.
Reed endured considerable taunting the following week at the Presidents Cup and his caddie and brother-in-law, Kessler Karain, even got into an altercation with a spectator, leading to the PGA Tour suspending him from the final day’s action.
Saturday’s incident on No. 10 overshadowed Reed’s eagle on the par-5 sixth when he reached in two and made a 40-foot putt to get to 12 under. He reached 13 under with a birdie on No. 9.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.