The DP World Tour has been forced to issue a statement clarifying a rules scenario involving Patrick Reed after the American’s propensity to court controversy again became apparent at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Reed took a penalty drop on the 17th hole of his third round after identifying his ball by specific markings when lodged up a tree. Without that identification, Reed would have had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Social media burst into life when video footage emerged which appeared to show Reed’s ball landing in a different tree to the one he took the drop beside.
Reed said after his round that he was “100%” sure he had seen his own ball, with the assistance of binoculars. “I would have gone back to the tee if I was not 100%.” He escaped with a bogey five en route to a 69 which keeps him in tournament contention.
Interestingly, the Tour did not deny Reed could have dropped from the wrong tree but seemed to assume responsibility for that possibility. A statement explaining the process read: “Two on-course referees and several marshals identified that Patrick Reed’s ball had become lodged in a specific tree following his tee shot on 17.
“The DP World Tour chief referee joined the player in the area and asked him to identify his distinctive ball markings. Using binoculars, the chief referee was satisfied that a ball with those markings was lodged in the tree.
“The player subsequently took an unplayable penalty drop (Rule 19.2c) at the point directly below the ball on the ground. To clarify, the player was not asked to specify the tree but to identify his distinctive ball markings to confirm it was his ball.”
A further layer of complexity was added by the fact umpteen golf balls sat in the branches of the tree being inspected. Reed has created headlines since the start of Desert Classic week after his driving range brush with Rory McIlroy, which quickly became known as Teegate. Reed, a player on the rebel LIV circuit, has donned that tour’s branding in Dubai.
As this drama unfolded, it was easy to forget McIlroy had surged into a three shot lead. McIlroy’s 65 featured just one scorecard blemish after he horribly miscued his second to the 18th into a pond.
McIlroy has reached 15 under par as he aims to start 2023 with victory. Callum Shinkwin and Dan Bradbury are his closest challengers. Ian Poulter and Richard Bland are among those who have Reed for company at minus 11. Should Reed overhaul McIlroy, the 17th hole in round three is certain to become a talking point.
“It’s a great opportunity,” McIlroy said. “First week back out, have a chance to win, it’s sort of what I wanted to do coming here. I think tomorrow will really show me where my game is, in the final group playing with a chance to win a golf tournament. I’m excited to see what happens.”