Patrick Reed in yet another Rules controversy?

Patrick Reed has a lot of things going on, including conflicts with both McIlroy and journalists.

Despite it all, he plays excellent golf, which gave him second spot in Hero Dubai Desert Classic 1.5 week ago.

And in Hero Dubai Desert Classic there was a Rules incident Saturday, that got a lot of attention.

1) Ball in palm tree.

On the 17th hole, Reed played an errant shot from the teeing area and the ball headed for three palms trees. Apparently the ball ended up in one of these palm trees (see the picture above – from Golf Channel)!

Using binoculars Reed identified a ball in the palm tree closest to the hole as his ball, and therefore proceeded with a one stroke penalty under the lateral relief option of the Unplayable Ball Rule (Rule 19).

 2) Did he do anything wrong?

So that was it. Or was it? Soon after the incident there was a lot of writings on social media (see below) including videos and pictures that apparently showed/proved that Reed’s ball most likely had ended up in the first of the three palm trees (the one FARTHEST from the hole) and not – as identified by Reed – in the last of the three palm trees (the one CLOSEST to the hole).

And moreover, there were a lot of balls in the palm trees (which most likely were Titleist Pro V1 – the ball many pro’s use) – thus indicating that it would be hard to identify a ball as yours.

And having in mind the rumors about /reputation of Patrick Reed when it comes to complying to the Rules of Golf, there is a lot of attention on what he is doing… and therefore social media quickly were filled with comments like this:

Why did it matter in what tree the ball was?

Because of two things:

  1. If the ball lay in the tree farthest from the hole, his approach shot (after taking unplayable ball relief) would be considerably more difficult than if it lay in the palm tree closest to the hole.
  2. If he was unable to identify the ball as his, he would have to go back to the teeing area under the stroke-and-distance-Rule and with a one stroke penalty play a ball (which would be stroke 3).

In other words: It would be beneficial to Reed, if the ball was identified as his being in the palm tree closest to the hole.

Quite a few on social media highlighted this, indicating that something was not right (hereunder implying that Reed had incorrectly identified his ball).

3. What do the Rules of Golf say?

Rule 7.2 goes like this:

A player’s ball at rest may be identified in any one of these ways:

  • By the player or anyone else seeing a ball come to rest in circumstances where it is known to be the player’s ball.
  • By seeing the player’s identifying mark on the ball (see Rule 6.3a), but this does not apply if an identical ball with an identical identifying mark is also found in the same area.
  • By finding a ball with the same brand, model, number and condition as the player’s ball in an area where the player’s ball is expected to be, but this does not apply if an identical ball is in the same area and there is no way to know which one is the player’s ball.

Clarification 7.2/1 elaborates:

If a player sees a ball in a tree or some other location where they are unable to retrieve the ball, the player may not assume that it is theirs but rather must identify it in one of the ways provided in Rule 7.2.

This may be done even though the player is unable to retrieve the ball, such as by:

  • Using binoculars or a distance-measuring device to see a mark that definitely identifies it as the player’s ball, or
  • Determining that another player or spectator saw the ball come to rest in that specific location after the player’s stroke.

So in this situation The Rules of Golf seem to suggest, that everything was fine: They used binoculars to see a mark that identified the ball as Reed’s ball.

4. Chief referee confirmed the identification.

Several Rules officials were present, hereunder chief referee Kevin Feeney (not John Paramore, which the original post said) who looked in the binoculars and confirmed the identification – i.e. confirmed that (from Reed’s description of the identification mark, I assume) it was his ball in the palm tree closest to the hole.

The DP World Tour published this statement (according to guardian. com og Golf Monthly):

5. Reed: Some people love controversy.

Reed thought he had been lucky (to find and identify his ball) and felt that it was a non-issue created by someone loving controversy:

6. What is the conclusion?

It is (for me) hard to find out what the conclusion is.

Reed seems to have proceeded in accordance with the Rules since the ball was identified as his by the identification mark by both himself and by Kevin Feeney.

Some will add that maybe Reed did not tell the truth about the identification mark.

What we know for (almost) sure is, that Reed will get a lot of attention in the future when/if a potential breach of the Rules of Golf occurs.