After Patrick Reed was eviscerated for his cavalier handling of a touchy embedded lie on Saturday at the Farmers Insurance Open, a tweet was sent out from both a burner account (presumed to be operated by Reed's team) and from Reed's verified Twitter account that a similar situation happened to Rory McIlroy in Round 3 on Saturday. McIlroy's embedded lie and drop were not shown on the telecast, though, so nobody knew exactly how it played out.
On Sunday morning, video was released that showed McIlroy's second shot on the par-5 18th hole. Similar to Reed's second shot on the 10th hole on Saturday, it bounced once and settled in the rough. McIlroy examined the ball, told his playing partners he thought it was embedded and picked it up to take his drop. He went on to make par on the hole to touch off a 2-under 70 and entered Round 4 three back of Reed and Carlos Ortiz.
"John Mutch, Ken Tackett and Gary Young have reviewed the Rory McIlroy videos from No. 18 yesterday and determined that it was virtually the same situation that Patrick Reed faced on No. 10 during the third round," the PGA Tour said in a statement.
Mutch went on to say that both players were "completely entitled to operate as they did." He added that for both Reed's shot and McIlroy's shot "it was reasonable to conclude that the ball had embedded in their own pitch mark."
It's a massive plot twist in the piling on Reed took on Saturday from pretty much everyone watching. While Reed's reputation is less than perfect, McIlroy's is exemplary with players, fans and the media. Last year at the PGA Championship after his ball was stepped on, he replaced it and then buried it a bit because he didn't feel comfortable with how good the original replacement was. Here's what McIlroy said at the time.
"You know, at the end of the day, golf is a game of integrity and I never try to get away with anything out there," said McIlroy. "I'd rather be on the wrong end of the rules rather than on the right end because as golfers, that's just what we believe. Yeah, I would have felt pretty wrong if I had of taken a lie that was maybe a little better than what it was previously."
Their respective histories with the rules certainly matter here, and there are options for what may have happened. While Reed's second shot clearly bounded forward, it's not unreasonable to think that McIlroy's bounced straight up in the air and came back down in its own pitch mark.
McIlroy said on Sunday after his round that he believes this is what happened.
"So from what happened, like as everyone knows, if a ball bounces up and comes to rest in a pitch mark or in a lie that's not the pitch mark that it made, then of course it's very hard for it to be embedded," he said. "But I feel the way my ball was definitely in its own pitch mark, it had to be, and that was why I was so confident to take relief and do what I did."
Either player's ball also could have landed in a different pitch mark and, thinking there had not been any bounce at all (as nobody in either group saw a bounce), both players would have presumed that the different pitch mark was actually their own.
What's interesting to me is that McIlroy was confident enough in his own ruling that he did not find it necessary to call in an official, whereas Reed did. Some might commend Reed for taking this extra step -- as Mutch did -- but it did feel a bit like Reed was looking for a fall guy in a dicey situation, especially after removing the ball from its original lie.