As CBS came on the air for Saturday's third round of the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open, Patrick Reed was showed on screen talking to PGA Tour rules official Brad Fabel, a former Tour player himself, about why he pre-emptively took relief from an embedded ball on the 10th hole at Torrey Pines' South Course.
Reed explained to Fabel that he saw his ball fly into the rough just across the cart path and parallel from the green. He believed his ball had embedded in its own pitch mark, entitling him to free relief from the lie. Reed had already removed his ball from the pitch mark, he said, as he set up the drop that would leave him in shorter grass, closer to the cart path but no nearer the hole.
Fabel examined what was purported to be a pitch mark from the ball, located in deep rough. Fabel believed the pitch mark satisfied the embedded ball rule and allowed Reed to take free relief and play out his next shot. Reed then got up-and-down from par in a difficult situation, continuing on in the tournament as leader.
Here you go, use at your leisure pic.twitter.com/pfCmEuwiIS
— James Else (@Elsey6) January 30, 2021
However, several keen PGA Tour viewers on Twitter believed Reed did not see the shot land properly. On view of the shot in real-time and the replays aired by CBS, it's clear the ball hit the ground, bounced up and then landed a few feet forward of the original landing spot. Skeptics believed it unlikely that the second bounce would lead to a pitch mark since the ball only went up in the air perhaps 2 feet.
CBS Sports took the question to Ken Tackett, PGA Tour rules official and new on-air analyst for these types of situations. Tackett defended the ruling, despite the video evidence that called Reed's explanation into question.
What was not clear from the Reed-Fabel interaction was that Fabel confirmed the pitch mark Reed purported as the landing spot for his ball -- after removing it from said landing spot -- was indeed a second pitch mark, as opposed to the first pitch mark from the initial landing. It's unclear if there were even two pitch marks. Reed, however, was taken at his word.
Players are typically cautioned from exercising rulings on these types of situations without having a rules official present for consultation and to preside over the proper application of relief.
The whole thing left a bad taste in the mouth of golf viewers, who spoke out about the situation on Twitter.
Reed is still playing his third round, though he will undoubtedly be asked about the incident following play.