The American shot a four-under par 68 on Sunday at Torrey Pines to romp to a five-shot win at the Farmers Insurance Open, moving the 30-year-old Reed into the top 10 of the world’s best golfers.
After his approach shot traveled left of the green into deep rough, Reed asked a volunteer if the ball had bounced. The volunteer said no, leading Reed to believe his ball may have embedded in the ground.
Free relief allows a golfer to drop the ball and take their next shot.
Before checking his ball, Reed could be heard telling his playing partners: “Hey guys, I’m going to check it. They said it didn’t bounce.”
By the time the official had arrived, the 2018 Masters champion had already moved the ball after determining it had been embedded.
Reed then asked the official to check the ground for an indentation, saying: “Since I picked it up to check — it seems like it broke ground — but I want you to double check.”
The rules official said he did feel an indentation in the ground and determined that Reed’s ball had been embedded. He then guided Reed through the drop for relief.
However, Reed’s actions drew criticism from some golfers.
“If my ball’s embedded, I usually will wait and call someone and kind of wait until everyone’s on the same page, wait to look at video,” Schauffele said.
“So I try to avoid situations like that just for that reason. You can put a tee in the ground and check your ball.
“He did everything by the book according to the official and everyone stood by there. The talk amongst the boys isn’t great, I guess, but he’s protected by the Tour and that’s all that matters, I guess.”
“Golf’s a game of sportsmanship and it’s tough to put us in the spot to call him out because we weren’t there, but at the end of the day I think 99 percent of the golfers out here, if it’s in question one way or the other, they’re going to go the other way, not taking a drop, it didn’t cross, that type of deal,” said the 32-year-old Griffin.
“So, it’s tough to see, it’s sad, kind of pisses us off, but it’s the way it is. Hopefully something changes and come to a conclusion.”
On the same day, a similar incident happened with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy. His second shot on the 18th hole landed in rough on the right side of the fairway and although video footage showed it hopped, players and witnesses around the area were unaware of that.
“John Mutch, Ken Tackett and Gary Young have reviewed the Rory McIlroy videos from No. 18 yesterday and determined that it was virtually the same situation that Patrick Reed faced on No. 10 during the third round,” the PGA Tour said in a statement.
“It was reasonable for both players to conclude — based on the fact that they did not see the ball land, but given the lie of the ball in soft course conditions — that they proceed as the Rule allows for an potential embedded ball.
“They marked, lifted and assessed the situation to determine if the ball was embedded. Patrick went one step further and called in a Rules Official to be sure his assessment would not be questioned (although this step is not required). Both players took proper relief under the Rule 16/3.
“The Committee is comfortable with how both players proceeded given the fact that they used the evidence they had at the time.”
“DID THE SAME THING TODAY ON HOLE 18! AND DIDN’T EVEN CALL A RULES OFFICIAL OVER TO DEEM THE BALL EMBEDDED. END OF STORY,” tweeted Reed.
McIlroy also addressed his situation afterwards, saying he “basically did the same thing as Patrick did.”
Reed did not break any PGA rules — he wasn’t required to ask for a Rules Official’s opinion before taking “proper relief” — but what happened over the weekend showed just how keenly players and fans of the sport view the sanctity of golf’s traditions.