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How it happened: Patrick Reed’s controversial drop at Torrey Pines

SAN DIEGO – Patrick Reed found himself embroiled in another rules controversy, but this time the rulebook was on his side.

After hitting his drive into a bunker and pulling his approach shot wildly left and into the rough at the par-4 10th hole Saturday at Torrey Pines, Reed determined that his ball was embedded after being told by a nearby volunteer that it did not bounce when it landed.

Reed marked where his golf ball had stopped and picked it up before calling in rules official Brad Fabel, who concurred that Reed’s golf ball was embedded and he was entitled to relief. After taking a drop, Reed pitched to 14 feet and made the putt for par.

“At that point, when you have three players, three caddies and the volunteer’s really close to the golf ball not seeing the ball bounce, then you have to go by what everyone sees and what everyone saw,” Reed said. “When no one has seen that, then the rules official basically say whether it’s free relief or not, and the rules official agreed that the ball has broken the plane and it was relief.”

Social media began to push back on the ruling after a replay clearly showed that Reed’s ball had bounced before settling into the rough. After the round, another rules official, John Mutch, showed the video to Reed and the two other players in his group, Will Gordon and Robby Shelton, to confirm the ruling.

“He operated the way the rules permit him to operate,” Mutch said. “It’s similar to virtual certainty, under embedded ball it’s called ‘reasonable to conclude,’ but if you hit the ball into a penalty area and you’re playing with a couple of your buddies and you’re virtually certain that’s where the ball went and you operate under the penalty area rule and then later somebody in a group two groups behind you says, ‘Hey, I found your ball in the left rough,’ well, you’re not under any penalty because you were virtually certain the ball’s in the penalty area and you proceeded according to the rules.”

Both Gordon and Shelton declined to comment.

Reed, who was leading the Farmers Insurance Open by four strokes after making the turn on Saturday, struggled on the back nine with four bogeys on his way to a third-round 70 for a share of the lead with Carlos Ortiz at 10 under.

This isn’t the first time Reed has been involved in a controversial rules situation. Most notably, Reed appeared to improve his lie in a bunker and was penalized two strokes at the 2019 Hero World Challenge, although he said at the time “it is my word against their word.”