Patrick Reed embroiled in rules controversy after his ball got stuck in a tree at the Dubai Desert Classic
European Tour

Patrick Reed embroiled in rules controversy after his ball got stuck in a tree at the Dubai Desert Classic

A picture of golfer Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed finds himself involved in another golf rules controversy after his ball got stuck in a tree during Sunday's third round of the 2023 Dubai Desert Classic.

With Rory McIlroy playing in the group directly behind his, Reed's tee shot on the 17th hole wound up stuck in a tree. The ball was not found on the ground, and the ball clearly went into a cluster of three trees off the fairway at Emirates Golf Club.

Under the Rules of Golf, a golfer has three options when their golf ball gets stuck in a tree. They can play it from the tree itself, assuming they're able to climb up and hit it. They can declare it lost and take the stroke-and-distance penalty that comes with it. Or, the third option. That's to find and positively identify their own ball in the tree and then be allowed to take an unplayable lie with two clublengths of relief.

Reed chose the last option. Up to this point, there is no controversy. He was employing the proper options available to him under the Rules of Golf.

The controversy happened when it appeared to viewers that Reed was looking for his ball up the wrong tree of the three. The camera tracking the ball led many viewers to think his ball got stuck in another of the cluster of trees. TV cameras clearly showed there were several golf balls in the trees, as one might expect given their position on the course. However, using binoculars, Reed said a ball he saw in the tree was one he could positively identify as his based on the markings on the ball -- a stated, conforming way of identifying a ball for this purpose. From there, he took an unplayable lie, the one-stroke penalty and relief.

According to DP World Tour commentator Tony Johnstone on Twitter, both the official and Reed were informed by spotters where they thought the ball went -- although they indicated the incorrect tree.

Reed wound up making bogey 5 on the hole as part of a third-round 3-under 69 that leaves him four back of McIlroy heading into Monday's final round.

"Going on 17, I felt like I hit a perfect drive on the line I was looking at -- if anything, I was hoping it might have been just a hair more right because I hit it so solid that I was worried it might go just through," Reed said after the round. "And next thing you know, we find it in a palm tree. It was an unfortunate break there, but at the end of the day, I think I rebounded really well."

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