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Jan 31st, 2021

Embedded Ballgate

Only the player knows if he cheated or not

Much was made about Patrick Reed's actions claiming relief for an embedded ball at the Farmers Insurance Open. Quite rightly comparisons were drawn when Rory McIlroy took a similar drop a couple of hours after the Reed incident.

Both players enquired of marshalls whether the ball bounced and was informed that they did not think so. Reed and McIlroy then marked and picked up their ball before taking a drop within one club's length.
So, what does the rule say:
Rule 6.3 Embedded Ball
a) When Relief Is Allowed
(1) Ball Must Be Embedded in General Area. Relief is allowed under Rule 16.3b only when a player's ball is embedded in the general area.
  • There is no relief under this Rule if the ball is embedded anywhere except in the general area.
  • But if the ball is embedded on the putting green, the player may mark the spot of the ball and lift and clean the ball, repair the damage caused by the ball's impact, and replace the ball on its original spot (see Rule 13.1c(2)).
Exceptions – When Relief Not Allowed for Ball Embedded in General Area: Relief under Rule 16.3b is not allowed:
  • When the ball is embedded in sand in a part of the general area that is not cut to fairway height or less, or
  • When interference by anything other than the ball being embedded makes the stroke clearly unreasonable (for example, when a player is unable to make a stroke because of where the ball lies in a bush).
(2) Determining Whether Ball Is Embedded. A player's ball is embedded only if:
  • It is in its own pitch-mark made as a result of the player's previous stroke, and
  • Part of the ball is below the level of the ground.
If the player cannot tell for sure whether the ball is in its own pitch-mark or a pitch-mark made by another ball, the player may treat the ball as embedded if it is reasonable to conclude from the available information that the ball is in its own pitch-mark.
A ball is not embedded if it is below the level of the ground as a result of anything other than the player's previous stroke, such as when:
  • The ball is pushed into the ground by someone stepping on it,
  • The ball is driven straight into the ground without becoming airborne, or
  • The ball was dropped in taking relief under a Rule.

b) Relief for Embedded Ball
When a player's ball is embedded in the general area and relief is allowed under Rule 16.3a, the player may take free relief by dropping the original ball or another ball in this relief area (see Rule 14.3):
Reference Point: The spot right behind where the ball is embedded.
  • Size of Relief Area Measured from Reference Point: One club-length, but with these limits:
  • Limits on Location of Relief Area:
    • Must be in the general area, and
    • Must not be nearer the hole than the reference point.
On reading the rule neither Reed nor McIlroy broke the rules of golf provided they believed the ball was embedded. Only the player himself knows the answer to that question, but golf is an honourable game and relies on players' honesty.
If anything, Rory took fewer steps than Reed to protect himself from criticism as he did not call in a rules official and voiced to his playing partners that he 'thought' his ball was plugged. The rule does not require the approval of playing partners but it is the standard etiquette to ask.
The issue arises with Reed's conduct because before calling in a rules official, he marked his ball and moved it away from the area where he believed the ball plugged. It is unusual for a player to move a ball before seeking a ruling, which piqued everyone's interest.
The problem for Reed is he has 'previous' with alleged cheating and so of course was immediately condemned by many as being at it again.
As mentioned above the rules have only been broken if the player knew the ball was not embedded. Only Rory and Patrick know the answer to that one!

TAGS: Golf Rules, Patrick Reed, Rory McIroy, R&A, 2021