Rory McIlroy found himself somehow caught up in the Patrick Reed rules chaos last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it left him with questions even after the tournament.
Reed, of course, got a free drop because of an embedded ball on the 10th hole on Saturday in Round 3 at Torrey Pines. It was a ruling that was talked about for two straight days even though he won on Sunday, and it was Reed himself who dragged McIlroy into it when he tweeted on Saturday night that McIlroy did the exact same thing he did on the 18th hole.
After video emerged on Sunday, the two relief rulings appear to be quite similar. McIlroy’s ball bounced in the rough — much like Reed’s — but McIlroy, who like Reed never saw the bounce, said it was embedded and took a drop. He was adamant after his round that he didn’t need to call over a rules official because it was certainly embedded. And yet, the replay showed that unless it landed in its own pitch mark (which is certainly possible, though unlikely) the ball almost certainly would not have been embedded.
Unless … it was stepped on.
“An email was sent to the Tour on Monday saying my ball was stepped on to be found, but the volunteer didn’t tell me that on Saturday,” McIlroy said on Wednesday at the Phoenix Open. “So that’s why I took embedded ball relief, because it was an embedded ball, but I didn’t know it had been stepped on at the time. So obviously the video came out on Sunday with my ball bouncing and then going in, and at that point I’m like, ‘Well, it must have went into its own pitch mark or something,’ because the ball was obviously plugged.”
The Tour exonerated both players on Sunday despite not knowing that McIlroy’s ball had actually been stepped on, but McIlroy said he went to sleep on Sunday evening unsettled.
“I went to bed Sunday night sort of questioning whether I had done the right thing after seeing the video. … I at least felt better about my actions knowing I did the right thing, that I did take relief for a ball that was embedded or stepped on. So it sort was nice that that came to light because I was questioning myself on Sunday a little bit.
“‘Did I do the right thing? Did I play by the rules? Did I see something that wasn’t there?’ It was a bit of a rough Sunday night. I just started to doubt myself a little bit, which is not like me. But I was convinced that it was an embedded ball,” McIlroy said.
It turns out that it was an embedded ball, even if the path to get to that point was not what anyone originally thought.