PATRICK REED went from “Teegate” to “Treegate” as he was caught up in yet another rules rumpus at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Social media users accused Reed of misleading a rules official after his ball got stuck up a palm tree on the 17th hole.
He used a set of binoculars to scan the top branches to identify it as “100 per cent my ball”.
But TV viewers were convinced Reed’s ball had become lodged in another tree close by, and wasted no time in pointing the finger at golf’s most controversial bad boy.
One Twitter user wrote: “Patrick Reed identifies his ball in left of the 3 trees yet the tv camera clearly shows it going in the right hand tree?? Am I missing something?”
Plenty more agreed, and called on DP Tour bosses to investigate whether Reed had deliberately misled the rules official to get a favourable drop.
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Rory McIlroy – whose stunning surge towards a three shot lead was overshadowed by the storm – was forced to wait on the 17th tee as Reed scanned the treeline.
McIlroy has made no secret of his contempt for Reed and the other LIV golf rebels.
He was involved in a pre-tournament bust-up with his former Ryder Cup opponent, with Reed throwing a tee at his feet for refusing to shake his hand.
Reed is no stranger to controversy. A book about his early days by US author Shane Ryan claimed he was forced to quit a Georgia college over claims he cheated and stole from classmates.
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The former Masters champion was also accused of getting a dodgy drop by “inventing” an embedded lie when he won the 2019 Farmer Insurance Open.
And he was penalised two shots at the Hero World Challenge later that year for brushing the sand in a bunker to improve his lie – which saw him receive dog’s abuse from Australian crowds at the President’s Cup for “building sandcastles”.
This time, Reed insisted his ball was one of two that were plainly visible in the tree on the Dubai course.
He said: “I got lucky that we were able to look through the binoculars and you have to make sure it’s your ball and how I mark my golf balls is I always put an arrow on the end of the line on the Pro VI ball.
“And you could definitely see and identify the line with the arrow on the end. So did the rules official. Luckily he was there to reconfirm and check it, to make sure it was mine as well.
“I was 100 per cent sure it was mine. I would have gone back to the tee if I wasn’t 100 per cent.”
The DP World Tour later issued a statement saying they were confident Reed had not broken any rules.
They said: “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.”
If Reed had been unable to locate his ball he would have had to return to the tee to hit his third shot, instead of taking a penalty drop a couple of club lengths away from the tree.
He managed to hack it out onto the front of the green and two-putted for a bogey.
Reed eventually signed for a three under par 69 that left him in a share of fourth place, four shots behind McIlroy, who shot a best of the day 65.
McIlroy was blissfully unaware of what was unfolding up ahead of him, and almost drove the green at the 359 yards 17th, before a chip and putt earned him his eighth birdie, and stretched his lead to four shots.
But the world No1 dumped his approach shot into the water at the par five 17th – just as he did last year when he needed a birdie to win the Desert Classic for a third time.
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McIlroy is still a long odds on favourite to win an event stretched out to five days because of uncharacteristic weather delays earlier in the week.
But Reed remains within striking distance of another controversial victory.
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