Rory McIlroy emerged from the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open unnecessarily dragged headlong into the latest rules controversy involving fellow PGA Tour colleague, Patrick Reed.
Reed teed-up on day four under a social media storm cloud following an incident mid-round on day three when he looked to have gained a favoured ruling despite TV footage clearly revealing his second shot at the 10th had bounced before being ’embedded’ in deep rough at Torrey Pines.
The Texan was given a ruling in his favour as if it had not bounced after no-one had seen his ball bounce while he was then met by another rules official post his round who confirmed the initial ruling was correct. But not so on social media with those watching replays crying foul and declaring Reed should have been penalised.
The controversy continued unabated with Reed replying to a tweet later Saturday night (8.30pm US Eastern Time), using capitals to bring McIlroy headlong into the simmering controversy:
What if a fan had seen Reed’s ball bounce? Spectators were not allowed at the Farmers, as they haven’t been at most tournaments during the pandemic. Reed said if “one fan said they saw it bounce, I never would have had to put a tee down and even check to see if it was embedded.”
McIlroy was also in the rules spotlight on day three but at the par-5 18th hole where he hit his second shot 69 yards short of the green. According to the Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, McIlroy determined that his ball was embedded without calling over a Rules official, he dropped and hit his third shot.
“Look, I came in here yesterday after hearing about what Patrick had been through on the 10th hole sort of giving him the benefit of the doubt because I just went through a similar thing on 18 yesterday,” McIlroy explained.
“I hit a 5‑iron for a layup. It sort of got caught up in the wind and ballooned and it landed beside three volunteers, but they didn’t see it. So the three were ‑‑ the three guys were searching for the ball as I got there. We took a while ‑‑ we sort of, it took me a minute and a half to find it and then one of the guys found it, he said, well, no one saw it.
“So I basically did the same thing as Patrick did. I said, well, I’m going to just check if it’s embedded. I just saw the video of it, because none of them saw it bounce, so I checked if it was embedded and it was in its pitch mark. I took the ball out and there was a lump of mud on it and it had broken the surface. I said to Rory Sabbatini, look, this ball’s embedded, and he said yeah, no problem at all. He had one on 15 that he had an embedded ball on 15 down the right side. So I basically just said, look, this ball’s embedded. He said yep, no worries at all. I took relief and proceeded on.”
“I said to you guys afterwards yesterday, I said, look, I haven’t seen the video yet, but it’s not uncommon for someone to put a tee down on the ground and check if their ball’s embedded, especially in soft conditions. I was sort of giving, without seeing that video, giving Patrick the benefit of the doubt because it seemed to me like it was a bit of a storm in a teacup. You’re trying to deal with the info that you have at that time, and the info that Patrick had at that time was the ball hadn’t bounced and the info that I had at that time was the same, and I went down and on my life that ball of mine was plugged, it was in its own pitch mark, so I took relief. And again, I went on from there.
The Golf Channel video of Lewis was tweeted at 8:09 p.m. (US Eastern Time, 21 minutes before Reed’s tweet.
Rory McIlroy takes embedded ball relief on No. 18 during Round 3. pic.twitter.com/9D4HH4Gv5g
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 31, 2021
McIlroy seemingly put the tweet aside as he went after Reed and fellow overnight third day leader, Carlos Ortiz of Mexico who shared the lead on 10-under with McIlroy at seven-under. Once again, McIlroy struggled off the tees missing the opening two fairways but managed to save par and then when he was on the ‘short stuff’ he got rewarded with a first birdie at the par-5 sixth hole where he was short in two and then chipped to just six-feet and holed the putt.
McIlroy then moved inside the top-five at the par-3 eighth hole in holing a 10-footer to be two under for the day but gave the shot back on 10 after going long and left with his wedge from the fairway and failing to get up and down. A second bogey, after yet another poor drive, at par-5 13th had SKY Sports Andrew Coltart remark: “It continues to surprise me how Rory manages to end some rounds with all 14 clubs”.
McIlroy grabbed only a third birdie of his day in holing a 13-footer on 14 but again it was despair after a wild drive right off the 15th and into the ‘unknown’, as stated on the PGA Tour’s ‘Shot Tracker’. He found the putting surface but then three-putted from 33-feet to undo his good work a hole earlier with McIlroy back to where he started the day at level par.
He had to take a penalty drop from a ‘native area’ left at 17 but superbly saved par before another closing par in a one-over par 73 to finish just inside the top-20 at six-under. Again, it was McIlroy’s driver, the root cause hitting just six of 14 fairways, the same number as on day three, while he also matched Saturday’s putting stats in also posting 30 putts.
Meanwhile, in the face of adversity, Reed rose to the challenge in typical defiance, carding a final round four-under par 68 for a resounding five shot win at 14-under par. Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Ryan Palmer and Henrik Norlander shared second place on nine-under.
- Full scoring HERE