While some may have questioned Patrick Reed‘s motives during an embedded ball controversy in last year’s Farmers Insurance Open, the defending champion insisted Tuesday that he did nothing wrong.
Reed, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, declared an embedded ball after taking his second shot on the 10th hole during the third round at Torrey Pines in January 2021, despite TV replays showing his ball bouncing into the rough. What didn’t sit well with a few of Reed’s competitors was that he marked the ball and had it in his hand before calling over a rules official.
At the time, Reed said he had asked nearby volunteers if his ball bounced. After being told no, he informed his playing partners that he was taking a free drop because of an embedded lie.
Reed went on to win the tournament by five shots, the widest margin of victory in his career.
“It should be remembered as a victory,” Reed said at a news conference at Torrey Pines on Tuesday. “At the end of the day the rules officials said we did nothing wrong. When you have rules officials that come out and say that, as well as you sit there and they’re able to go by the book and go by the rules and you don’t do anything wrong with that and there’s no real discussion about it, go out there and play the best I can and do everything I’m supposed to and win the golf tournament.”
Rory McIlroy had a similar situation on the par-5 18th hole in the third round at Torrey Pines last year. His playing partner, Rory Sabbatini, signed off on McIlroy’s request for a free drop without examining his lie. No rules official was called.
After Reed’s win, the PGA Tour released a statement saying both players handled the situations properly under the rules.
“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 a potential embedded ball,” the tour said in its statement. “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.”
But because of Reed’s rules issues in the past, he was heavily criticized for his actions.
“Really, I mean, the only thing I can do is keep on moving forward, keep trying to get the best I can on the golf course and handle myself how I feel like I’m supposed to off the golf course, whether it’s with my peers, whether it’s at home, whether it’s out on the road or anything like that,” Reed said. “As long as I feel like I’m doing the right things, all of it will take care of itself.”
World No. 1 Jon Rahm said the controversy really wasn’t much of an issue for him because Reed ran away with the victory.
“He did win by five, right?” Rahm said. “So he played better than everybody else by quite a bit. Talking about an instance where only he knows what happened. I’m in no room to judge. The footage is — it’s not the best in that sense. As far as I’m concerned, he is the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open champion and he did it by five. It was great playing the whole week.”
Justin Thomas said it’s hard to argue that Reed, despite his past controversies, is not one of the best players in the world.
“I think his success and amount of wins and everything he’s done speaks for itself,” Thomas said. “The stuff that’s happened otherwise is what it is and it’s in the past. You know, you can’t take away the fact that he’s a Masters champion and the fact that he’s won however many times he’s won. I don’t know if there’s anybody I’d want on tour other than him with the wedge and putter in their hand. He gets up and down from everywhere.”