He has been involved in more than a few dubious actions regarding the rules and has now attracted a lot of negative attention on social media about his actions around his ball on the 10th hole of his 3rd round of the Farmers Insurance Open yesterday. The video here is the only one I could find without added vitriol.
One thing that isn’t shown on this recording is that when he walks up to his ball he asks the volunteer who had marked its position “Did it bounce?” and got the response “No, I didn’t see it bounce”. While the reply wasn’t a definite “It didn’t bounce”, I can understand his interpretation that it hadn’t. Mark Immelman, who was with this group, also confirmed in interview that they couldn’t see whether or not it had bounced from where the stroke was played. Mark also saw the lie of the ball before Patrick got there and said he could only see a tiny bit of it through the grass as it was down so deep.
So, there was a lot of rain the day before and Patrick believed that the ball had landed in the rough and not bounced which would give him reasonable grounds to believe that it might be embedded in its own pitchmark. In this situation the player is entitled to lift the ball under Rule 16.4 to check if the ball is indeed embedded. The ball must be marked first, and the player may not clean it in this situation as if the examination determines that it is not embedded then it must be replaced precisely as it was.
A ball is embedded only if it has made a dent in the ground and not if it is just lying in deep grass – see the diagram below from the rule book.
Patrick believed that the ball had “broken the plane” and so called the Rules Official to confirm this which he did and so relief was allowed (within 1 club length of the spot immediately behind the ball, not nearer the hole, and within the general area). It looks like he rather cunningly decided to drop onto an area which had been flattened by a buggy which would have given him a much easier shot than it was from his original position.
While the video clearly shows that the ball did bounce and so was not actually embedded in its own pitchmark this evidence was not available to Patrick or the Referee at the time. They both acted reasonably given the information that was available to them at the time (Rule 1.3b) and made the correct ruling on that basis. While the video subsequently demonstrated that their conclusion was incorrect the player can not be penalised for acting under the instruction of the appointed Referee. Also, I feel the Referee made the correct ruling as the facts were understood at the time and so no blame can be attached to him.
There has also been discussion on whether Patrick should have lifted the ball without the Referee being present. He was perfectly entitled to do so and if he had determined that the ball was not embedded, lets hope/expect that he would have put it straight back in the horrible lie and got on with the game without causing any delay.
In summary, there has been well founded criticism of some of his actions (and the official’s response to them), but in this instance I think he correctly throughout.
There is a rather lengthy interview here explaining things from the player’s perspective.