Patrick Reed’s Embedded Ball

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.

4 thoughts on “Patrick Reed’s Embedded Ball

  1. We weren’t there, so we don’t know how wet/muddy it was. Reed was happy applying 16.4 and I agree and accept that. I would have liked the official to see the state of the ball, muddy ? Reed wouldn’t have been able to clean it, while checking for embedded status. As an official I would have been probing the ground close by to see the thickness of the grass and how wet the ground was, if I could see or feel the ground. As you correctly state, officials can only operate on information to hand.

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    1. I’ve just found out that Rory McIlroy had a similar incident on the 18th yesterday – difference being that he didn’t call for a Referee and no-one else looked at the lie so arguably a worse situation. However 2 players believing their ball is embedded in the rough on its second bounce perhaps indicates that the situation wasn’t straightforward. I’ve also changed the video in the post to a better one – the commentary talks about four inches of rain so the whole course must be quite soft.

      You can see a bit of the ball after Patrick Reed picks it up and while it isn’t in close up the ball doesn’t look dirty.

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  2. I would like to raise a related but different question. Is there a problem with the current rule and how it is determined whether or not the ball is below the surface of the ground in heavy rough? Rory apparently looked at it and determined “for the life of me” that it was beneath the surface of the ground. Patrick and the rules official apparently couldn’t tell by looking and therefore probed the ground with their fingers to determine there was an indentation and hence the ball was embedded? How accurate is that? I suspect it is NOT VERY ACCURATE AT ALL. It’s one thing in the fairway or light rough where there isn’t much grass to impede observation. But in 4 inch or 6 inch rough you can’t see the ground due to intervening grass. This idea that you can probe with your finger and determine it is suspect. If we agree that a ball dropped from a foot (the height both Reed and McIlroy’s balls bounced) is almost impossible to embed in 5 inch grass then we would conclude neither ball was truly embedded. Yet three people using existing standards came to the incorrect conclusion that both balls WERE embedded. Once spring comes and the grass grows I plan to drop some balls in wet rough and see what height it takes to actually embed. If existing procedures are inaccurate perhaps more consistent determination could be achieved by requiring a second person to observe the determination of embedded in the rough and give them more objective criteria upon which to make that determination.

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    1. Sorry to take so long to respond – your comment went into spam for some reason.

      We now know that a volunteer had stepped on Rory’s ball which would certainly have embedded it although of course not in its own pitchmark. If this had been known at the time he should have then recreated its original lie (and would have had to estimate what that was like) – in fact exactly what he did in the US PGA last year.

      I agree that it can be very difficult to determine whether a ball is embedded in deep rough – especially if it is like the middle picture in the diagramme above. I can understand that feeling for a “lip” might help, but would also think that it would be possible to see an imprint of the ball if it is embedded.

      The rules have moved away from requiring witnesses (although it is good practice if there any concern) and continue to rely on the integrity of the players – and don’t forget that Patrick did call in an independent examination from a referee who came to the same conclusion as him.

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