Welcome to this week’s Slam, and good ol’ Patrick Reed is keeping things interesting on tour. Also, Brooks Koepka had some fun with the rules and a European Tour veteran that can’t stop winning. Let’s dive in…
Rules, rules, rules
I’m old enough to remember when you had to wait for the Masters for the tour season to really get going. These days it feels like a Patrick Reed rules debacle in the middle of winter is our biting point.
Has it really been 13 months since Reed’s bunker antics at the Hero World Challenge? Antics that triggered that week’s analyst Paul Azinger to declare that “we’re going to watch him like a hawk with the cameras”. Antics that have seen the 2018 Masters champion carry the dreaded “cheat” label wherever he tees up.
Having a breeze around social media or other golf websites on Sunday and you’ll have seen that word was prominent after Reed was caught up in another controversy at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Reed was leading the tournament by four shots when he reached the par-4 10th on Torrey Pines’ South course on Saturday. His fairway bunker shot tugged left and came to rest in the rough around 50 yards short of the green.
As Reed approached his ball, he asked the marshal: “Did it bounce?” She replied: “I didn’t see it bounce.”
He saw it was an embedded lie – which would mean a free drop – before asking his caddie Kessler Karain to call for a rules official. “I think it broke ground,” he told Karain.
Before rules official Brad Fabel could get to the scene, Reed marked his ball and picked it up, before placing it next to his golf bag.
“[The marshal] said it didn’t bounce,” Reed told Fabel, “so I checked it and I believe it broke ground. But I want you to make the call.”
“What are you talking about?” Fabel replied.
“Embedded ball,” Reed confirmed. “It seems like it broke ground, but I want you to double check. They said it didn’t bounce.”
Reed then put his finger in the indentation, before Fabel asked if he could do the same.
“That’s the only way you’ll be able to check, isn’t it?” Reed quipped.
Fabel confirmed that he “felt a lip on it” before the pair started discussing the spot from which Reed was allowed to make his drop.
The full exchange as Patrick Reed takes embedded ball relief on No. 10. pic.twitter.com/gSPH6PrAoW— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 30, 2021
Reed got up and down to save par, but by this point the court of social media was fully in session.
Charge: The footage clearly showed the ball bouncing.
Verdict: It did. But we all had the benefit of slow motion replays – which were aired after the incident. Neither Reed – some 130 yards away, remember – nor his playing partners, nor any of the caddies, nor the marshal, had seen the bounce. That’s seven people. He’s perfectly entitled to reasonably conclude that the ball did not bounce.
Charge: The fact he even asked meant Reed was looking for embedded ball relief before he had got to it.
Verdict: Nick Faldo says in the commentary that there had been another inch of rain to add to the four inches that had already fallen – so balls would have been plugging all over Torrey Pines. Tell me, if you smash your ball into a group of staked trees what are you thinking as you approach your ball? I’ll tell you: You’re thinking about free relief.
Charge: He moved his golf ball before he got a ruling.
Verdict: Rule 16.4 says “if a player reasonably believes that his or her ball lies in a condition where free relief is allowed … but cannot decide without lifting the ball, the player may lift the ball to see if relief is allowed but the spot of the ball must be marked, and the lifted ball must not be cleaned”. He didn’t need to get a ruling at all, and this is where the lines between rules and etiquette are blurred.
Charge: He didn’t mark his golf ball before lifting it.
Verdict: The way Reed carefully placed his ball on the ground by his bag – and subsequently told Karain to clean it once the call had been made by Fabel – suggests he knows Rule 16.4 inside out. (As he should.) The footage is unclear as to when he marks the ball but when Reed and Fabel are discussing his options it’s very clear there is already a tee in the ground.
The official line
After his round, Reed reviewed the tape with senior tournament official John Mutch. Here’s what Mutch had to say…
Rules Official John Mutch elaborates on Saturday’s embedded ball rulings. pic.twitter.com/4jYFY0WhIP— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 31, 2021
Reed, meanwhile, told the press that it was “an unfortunate situation”.
He added: “At the end of the day when you finish a 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.”
Reed did, however, explain that there was one thing he would have done differently. “If we saw the ball bounce or if someone said the ball bounced, then I never would have marked the golf ball,” he said. “When the ball bounces it’s almost impossible for it to break the plane and so any time you see the ball bounce you just play it as it lies.
“But since you have three players, three caddies and a volunteer that didn’t see the ball bounce, then you obviously are going to go off of that.”
Reed’s biggest crime is his crippling lack of self awareness. When your reputation precedes you in the way Reed’s does, you take extra precautions. Not that he cares, of course.
The question we need to ask ourselves is: Would the pitchforks have been out if Rory McIlroy had done exactly the same thing?
Which leads us to…
The plot twist
Later, Reed’s official Twitter account – understood to be run by wife Justine – posted an all-caps all-timer: “RORY MCILROY 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.”
And, as if in a bid to relieve the criticism flying their way, the PGA Tour released the McIlroy footage on Sunday.
Rory McIlroy takes embedded ball relief on No. 18 during Round 3. pic.twitter.com/9D4HH4Gv5g— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 31, 2021
Spot the difference?
Safe to say the tone on social media massively changed once the McIlroy video emerged. Funny how a tone changes when it’s a fan favourite, isn’t it?
Apropos of nothing, the Ryder Cup will not come quick enough.
It wasn’t the only rules incident of the week. Brooks Koepka found himself in an unfortunate – and hilarious – situation when he drove his ball into someone’s shoe that was sitting on a golf buggy.
When he found his ball, the four-time major champion wasn’t quite as quick as Reed to pick it up. “I ain’t sticking my hand in there,” he joked. “You can grab it out of your nasty ass shoe.”
The ruling on this one is a bit more straight-forward thanks to Rule 15.2, which allows for a free drop from movable obstructions. Or, in this case, a movable obstruction on a movable obstruction.
So who actually won?
Reed, of course. Viktor Hovland was going shot for shot with Reed on the front nine on Sunday before falling away.
It’s Reed’s ninth PGA Tour victory – and he won’t get any more controversial than that.
- RELATED: What’s in Reed’s bag?
And on this side of the Atlantic?
Just shy of the 20-year anniversary of his first European Tour title, Paul Casey has reached his target of 15 with a fine victory at the Dubai Desert Classic.
As closest challengers Robert MacIntyre and Brandon Stone stumbled, Casey never looked back and eventually won by four at Emirates Golf Club.
And, for no other reason than the fact they are hugely entertaining in a David Brent sense, here’s Casey’s post-round interview…
And you can back Casey for a major this year. Why?
“I’m incredibly happy at home,” he explained. “I’ve got a great wife, kids. And I understand where golf sits in my life.
“I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am. “I’m at peace with whatever happens in terms of my golf career from here on.”
When they start accepting they won’t win a major, that’s when they win them. Just tell ’em Darren sent you.
- RELATED: What’s in Paul Casey’s bag?
Right, that’s more than enough from me.
If you’re looking for a podcast to listen to, I had a great chat with Graeme McDowell last week and, as you would expect, he had some fantastic tales to tell.
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