Patrick Reed Embroiled In New Rules Controversy In Dubai

After dominating headlines early in the week with a tee tossed in the direction of Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed found himself back in the headlines this weekend at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic for something the golf world has become a little more accustomed to – a Reed rules controversy.

In contention during Sunday’s third round at Emirates Golf Club, Reed’s drive on the 17th hole flew into one of the palm trees to the right of the fairway and his ball got lodged in the fronds. Reed called in a rules official, and with the help of some binoculars was able to identify his ball in the tree based on how he marked his ball.

“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,” said Reed. “You could definitely see and identify the line with the arrow on the end, and the rules official was there to reconfirm and check it to make sure it was mine as well.”

Reed proceeded to take a drop for an unplayable lie – a one-stroke penalty – and continued play. Had he not been able to identify his ball, he would have incurred a two-stroke penalty for a lost ball, and would have had to go back and re-tee. He went on to make a bogey on the hole before bouncing back with a birdie at the last, carding a 69 and in a tie for fourth place at 11-under.

The problem was that video appeared to show Reed and the rules official were not looking at the correct tree. Reed said that marshals and volunteers had told him it went into the farthest right of the three palm trees just off the fairway, but video appeared to show it fly into the first of the three. 

Reed was asked about the incident after the round, but no mention was made of the video.

“When I hit that tee shot, I didn’t even see those palms,” Reed said. “I felt like it was on a good line, it was just left of the green, and I guess it just needed to be a little bit more right or a little bit higher.” 

Reed said he was 100% sure he had seen his golf ball with the help of the binoculars.

“I would have gone back to the tee if I was not 100%,” he said after his round.

As the video continued to circulate across social media, the DP World Tour issued a statement on the ruling. It made no mention of the possibility that Reed could have taken a drop from the wrong tree, but did seem to account for that possibility.

“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,” the statement read.

“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.”

Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee – who was one of multiple defendants in one of Reed’s defamation lawsuits – gave a detailed breakdown of the video on Sunday night, insinuating there was no possible way Reed’s ball could have wound up in the tree where he identified it.

The ruling looked like it could loom very large when the rain-delayed tournament made it to the back nine during its Monday finish. Playing in the penultimate group, Reed went out right in front of Rory McIlroy and fired a 7-under 65 to give him the clubhouse lead at 18-under.

McIlroy – the 54-hole leader – needed birdies on the last two holes to outlast Reed’s surge. Rory easily birdied the 17th, then headed to the 18th and watched Reed tie him with a birdie. After his tee shot nearly found the water through the fairway, McIlroy laid up and knocked a wedge just inside 15 feet and then rolled in the putt for the victory.

A day after the tournament finished, Reed did issue a statement addressing the controversy, saying it’s “time we get back to playing some golf”.

Reed has made headlines with rules controversies several times before. Author Shane Ryan reported that Reed had cheated against and stole from teammates during his time on the University of Georgia golf team.

After being dismissed from the team at Georgia, Reed transferred from Georgia to Augusta State, where he and the Jaguars won back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011. One of his teammates from Augusta State has since come out and accused him of shaving strokes off his scores during qualifying events.

Since turning pro, Reed has had trouble shaking the reputation as one who runs afoul of the rules. In 2019, Reed was assessed a two-stroke penalty at the Hero World Challenge after video showed him moving sand from behind his ball while taking practice swings in a bunker. 

Former CBS Sports reporter Peter Kostis went onto the No Laying Up podcast in 2020 and said he’d seen Reed improve his lie four times.

Last year at the Farmers Insurance Open, Reed had another run-in with the rules. After hitting his second shot left of the 10th green at Torrey Pines South Course, Reed picked up his ball before consulting with a rules official, and was eventually granted embedded ball relief.

Much like the incident in Dubai, video later showed Reed’s ball clearly bounce, and many accused Reed of gaining an advantage by improving his lie in the heavy rough. He went on to win the tournament by five strokes.

Reed will be back in action this week at the Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia, before kicking off his second season as a participant in the LIV Golf series in Mayakoba, Mexico, at the end of the month.