Golf villain Patrick Reed is at it again.
The co-leader was embroiled in a rules controversy during Sunday morning’s third round of the US PGA Farmers Insurance Open, where he was awarded a free drop on the back of a contentious ruling.
Reed has cemented his reputation as one of the most polarising figures in golf after a series of cheating accusations in recent years.
Australian legend Greg Norman was among a host of golfing icons to go public in condemning Reed — saying he was “repulsed” by Reed’s behaviour after the American was penalised two shots during the 2019 Hero World Challenge for appearing to deliberately improve his lie in a bunker.
Eagle-eyed fans then went back and spotted several other moments of questionable conduct in Reed’s bending of rules.
His moral compass was called into question again on Sunday, despite his divisive drive ultimately being deemed an embedded ball.
The 2018 Masters champion fired a two-under par 70 to match Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz, who posted the day’s low round of 66, on 10-under par 206 after 54 holes at Torrey Pines north of San Diego.
But overshadowing the day’s action was Reed’s second shot at the par-four 10th hole and the aftermath of what PGA rules officials declared were proper actions on his part.
Reed hit a 190-yard shot out of a bunker with a TV replay showing the ball bounced once before settling into the rough. Believing the ball didn’t bounce, Reed picked it up to see if it was embedded before a rules official arrived. Reed told the official that no one in his group, as well as a nearby volunteer, saw it bounce.
Reed was awarded a free drop and saved par.
“The ball just disappeared. None of us saw it bounce,” said Reed, who added that a nearby volunteer told him that it did not bounce. “I looked at my group and said, ‘Guys, she didn’t see it bounce it, either, so I’m going to mark this ball and see if it’s embedded’.
“We did exactly what we were supposed to do,” Reed said. “That’s what we felt is the right thing and what the rules officials thought was the right thing.”
Social media exploded with critics who watched the scene called for a penalty on the 30-year-old American.
“It’s an unfortunate situation at the end of the day,” Reed said. Reed would bogey four of the next six holes but sink an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th to share the lead with Ortiz.
Rules officials did go over video of the incident at the 10th with Reed before he emerged from the scorers’ tent, but they also said he had acted properly given he thought the ball had landed where it did on the fly.
Reed said they told him everything he did was “textbook” for the situation.
“It was reasonable to conclude it was his pitchmark and it was embedded,” said senior tournament director John Mutch. “The player is entitled to do that (lift the ball out). He did nothing wrong. He marked it, lifted it and called for a ruling.”
PGA Tour rules official Ken Tackett said Reed “did all the things we ask to do of a player. It’s obviously difficult and you get to second-guessing when see video; soft conditions, there’s a lot of variables out there.”
Reed said he would have done nothing differently knowing only what he knew then.
“I feel fine. I feel great,” he said. “I did everything I was supposed to do. And I feel even better making birdie at the last.”
It’s far from the first cheating accusation Reed has faced since his college days, claims he has vehemently denied.
Reed said he feels he gets more scrutiny from viewers over calls than other players.
“Definitely,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that happened today but it’s exactly what I should do. That’s all you can do. When you’re out there playing, you can’t see everything.
“The great thing is I still have a chance to win a golf tournament.”
The 30-year-old American seeks a ninth US PGA victory and first since last February’s WGC Mexico Championship.
– With AP
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