Patrick Reed rules controversy blows up around video of ball landing in tree
Patrick Reed is involved in yet another rules controversy after the American declared that, despite TV suggesting otherwise, he was “100 percent certain” it was his ball lodged up a tree in Dubai.
His insistence permitted him a favourable drop on the 17th hole on Sunday and spared him a long walk back to the tee.
Predictably, social media was quickly in uproar following the incident in the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic, which featured Reed peering through binoculars up into the branches and assuring the referees that he was sure it was his ball because of its distinctive markings.
Video replays, however, appear to show that there was very little chance that the ball identified by Reed could have been his.
The rules of golf dictate that, if Reed were in any doubt about whether or not it was his ball, he would have to take a stroke and distance penalty and go back to play three off the tee. As it was, Reed was allowed to take a one-shot penalty drop adjacent to the tree and escaped with a bogey five.
Reed proceeded to birdie the 18th for 69 and an 11-under total, in a tie for fourth, four behind leader Rory McIlroy going into Monday’s final round.
Reed and McIlroy have been embroiled in a bust-up all week at the Emirates Golf Club, after McIlroy refused to acknowledge the LIV Golf rebel, whose lawyers served the world No 1 with a court summons on Christmas Eve. Reed reacted to Rory’s snub by flicking a LIV-branded tee peg at his feet.
As one wag put it, Reed’s week has gone from “Teegate” to “Treegate”.
Video replays suggest Reed was wrong
When asked by Telegraph Sport, Reed was unequivocal about it being his ball. “100 percent,” he said. “I would have gone back to the tee if I wasn’t 100 percent… I got lucky that we were able to look through the binoculars and you have to make sure it’s your ball and how I mark my golf balls is I always put an arrow on the end of my line, because the Pro VI the arrow on the end stop before it so you can see the arrow.
“And you could definitely see and identify the line with the arrow on the end, and the rules official, luckily, was there to reconfirm and check it to make sure it was mine as well.”
Subsequent video analysis appears to show that Reed was wrong.
The American was three-under when he teed off on the penultimate hole on Sunday, and pushed his opening shot on the drivable par three to the right of the fairway.
The ball was visible right until the point that it got to the trees, where it then disappears from view.
There are two groups of palm trees, three of them are positioned together in a straight line adjacent to the fairway and four more grouped together nearer the green. Video replays appear to show Reed’s ball disappearing as it reaches the first tree, at a height where it would unlikely reach the second or third trees if it were to make it past.
Once Reed arrives at the trees, he uses a pair of binoculars to try and identify the ball in the palm tree leaves – there are several balls to choose from. It’s at this point that he identifies what he believes is his ball in the third tree along from the first group, despite pictures suggesting the ball did not travel that far.
Later, the Tour released a statement, outlining why the on-course decision had been ratified. “During round three of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, two on-course referees and several marshals identified that Patrick Reed’s ball had become lodged in a specific tree following his tee shot on 17,” it said.
“The DP World Tour chief referee joined the player in the area and asked him to identify his distinctive ball markings. Using binoculars, the chief referee was satisfied that a ball with those markings was lodged in the tree. The player subsequently took an unplayable penalty drop (Rule 19.2c) at the point directly below the ball on the ground. To clarify, the player was not asked to specify the tree but to identify his distinctive ball markings to confirm it was his ball.”
Reed has apparently been cleared but, believe it, the affair will not die. Reed is no stranger to rules rumpuses. Three years ago, he was penalised two strokes for deliberately improving his lie in a bunker – a charge he still denies. And in 2021 he was at centre of another social media storm when he picked up the ball to check if it was embedded, despite the fact that TV showed it skipping forward.
In both cases, he defended himself against the accusations, railing against the media and social media for singling him out.
The affair overshadowed McIlroy’s fine day, on which he birdied the first four and with three more successive birdies on the back nine assumed a four-shot advantage. However, he knocked his second in the water on the par-five 18th to keep it interesting going into the extra day forced by the dramatic desert downpours in the first two rounds.
In 14 attempts, McIlroy has yet to win on his opening start of the year, despite finishing in the top five on 12 occasions. “I would love to do something I haven’t done before,” he said.