Patrick Reed won the Farmers Insurance Open by five on Sunday at Torrey Pines. Yet it was a controversial embedded-ball free relief ruling on Saturday — and not Reed’s dominating win — that players were asked about on Sunday evening.
While some agreed with Reed’s actions and the Tour’s ruling given the circumstances, others were less pleased with what went down.
“It’s sad,” said Lanto Griffin, who tied for seventh. “Kind of pisses us off.”
Reed’s embedded-ball free relief on the 10th hole of Saturday’s third round was a heated talking point. Rory McIlroy also took the same kind of relief on Saturday (the video was released on Sunday), although it was Reed’s decision to pick up his ball and deem it embedded before calling for a rules official that irked critics. (The rules, however, did not require Reed or McIlroy to call for an official.) Both players were also told their golf balls didn’t bounce, which would increase the likelihood of embedding, but replay that wasn’t available to them at the time showed both of them bouncing.
“You’re trying to deal with the info that you have at that time, and the info that Patrick had at that time was the ball hadn’t bounced and the info that I had at that time was the same, and I went down and on my life that ball of mine was plugged, it was in its own pitch mark, so I took relief,” McIlroy said on Sunday.
The Tour released a statement saying: “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.”
Several players were asked about Reed’s situation in particular after their final rounds. Reed has been here before.
“I mean, it’s tough,” Griffin said. “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. 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.”
Players were also asked how they would have handled the same situation.
“I think the rule is if you’re in doubt on something that’s going to give you an advantage and it’s not 100 percent, you know, then you kind of go the other way,” Griffin said. “But I wasn’t there, I didn’t see it, so it’s hard for me to really judge, but I don’t know.”
Xander Schauffele, who tied for second, said he didn’t see Reed’s video. When asked what he would have done, he said: “I would not put myself and create a situation like that. That’s kind of — I wouldn’t. 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. 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 continued. “I mean, he did everything by the book according to the official and everyone stood by there. Obviously 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.”
Viktor Hovland said he hadn’t seen the Reed video and didn’t feel comfortable commenting. Tony Finau said he was OK with the ruling the Tour handed out. “At the present time, the circumstances they were in, I think all the procedures that they went through were proper,” he said. “The official deemed that it was an embedded golf ball, so he took his club length and took relief.”
McIlroy ended his time with the media on Sunday by saying “it’s the worst thing in golf” to be labeled a cheater.
“I’ve never tried to get away with anything out here,” he said. “I think I said at the time, you know, in golf you’d rather be on the wrong side of the rules than the right side of them — because that’s just what our game’s about. Our game is about integrity and it’s about doing the right thing. I always try to do the right thing and hopefully people see that. I feel like I have a reputation of that. Yeah, look, yesterday was one of those things that I guess Patrick and I both went on the information that we had and made those determinations. I guess people can jump to conclusions, but at the same time we were I guess well within our rights to do what we did. And yeah, I mean, again — I don’t know. My ball was certainly plugged on 18, Patrick felt his ball was plugged on 10 and we proceeded on from there.”