Volunteer admits to stepping on Rory McIlroy's ball in embedded ball flap with Patrick Reed

Jason Owens
·3-min read

Over the weekend, Rory McIlroy got pulled into Patrick Reed’s mess when Reed brought up his name amid accusations of cheating.

It was an ordeal that left McIlroy second-guessing himself. But on Monday, McIlroy received validation that he did the right thing.

Patrick Reed accused of cheating

The saga started Saturday at the Farmer’s Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Reed faced cheating accusations after he picked up his ball without verification from a rules official. Thanks to the wet conditions, players were allowed relief from embedded balls.

Reed, who went on to win the tournament, declared his approach shot on the 10th hole as embedded after a volunteer told him that she didn’t see it bounce. Only after he picked up his ball did he call for a rules official.

Video of the shot shows that Reed’s ball took a short bounce before reaching its landing spot, casting doubt among viewers over whether the ball was legitimately embedded.

Only Reed, his caddie and the volunteer knew if his ball was actually embedded before he dropped it for a better lie.

But what about Rory?!

Reed, who has a well-established casual relationship with golf’s rules, heard the criticism and attempted to flip the script with some textbook whataboutism aimed at McIlroy. McIlroy had also chosen to take relief without the aid of a rules official on the 18th hole, a point Reed made in all caps on his Twitter account.

The PGA backed both players’ decisions in a ruling entrenched in one of golf’s most basic tenets. Golf is a game of honor, and players are expected to do the honorable thing on their own. So the PGA took both players for their word.

“It was reasonable for both players to conclude — based on the fact that they did not see the ball land, but given the lie of the ball in soft course conditions — that they proceed as the rule allows for a potential embedded ball,” a PGA statement read amid the controversy.

Patrick Reed of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walk on the seventh green during the final round of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy's decision has been validated. We're still left to take Patrick Reed at his word. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

McIlroy, unlike Reed, doesn’t have a long-established reputation of skirting golf’s rules and hasn’t ceded the benefit of the doubt in these situations. Nevertheless, the ordeal made McIlroy second-guess himself.

“Did I do the right thing? Did I play by the rules? Did I see something that wasn’t there?” McIlroy told reporters from the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Wednesday. “I just started to doubt myself a little bit, which is not like me. But I was convinced that it was an embedded ball.”

Someone stepped on McIlroy’s ball

He also revealed that his decision has since been validated. He said a volunteer admitted to the PGA that he had stepped on McIlroy ball — information McIlroy didn’t have when he took relief, but confirms that his ball had been embedded.

“The Tour got an email on Monday that it had been stepped on and the volunteer said something like, ‘I’m so sorry that Rory is being dragged into this scenario, but I didn’t tell him that I actually stood on his ball to find it,’” McIlroy said.

Now, McIlroy has verification for his decision. As for Reed, we’re left to take him for his word.

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