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SAN DIEGO, Cali. – Patrick Reed knew the question was coming.
He knew he’d have to address his controversial drop from an embedded lie in the third round of last year’s Farmers Insurance Open, especially given his checkered past that included his complaints about not playing with Jordan Spieth in the 2018 Ryder Cup and his incident in a bunker in the 2019 Hero World Challenge when he improved his lie before hitting his shot, a two-stroke penalty later assessed.
So, back to the South Course in the third round last year. Reed had taken his golf ball out of the embedded lie in the rough left of the fairway on the 10th hole before calling for an official to get relief. Video of the incident was not kind, and social media lit up and afterward, Xander Schauffele said of the matter, “The talk amongst the boys isn’t great, I guess.”
PGA Tour rules officials said Reed did nothing wrong and no penalty was issued. Reed went on to roll to a 5-shot victory at 14 under, but the episode overshadowed his triumph.
Patrick Reed poses with the winner’s trophy following the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course – South Course. (Photo: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)
“It should be remembered as a victory,” Reed said Tuesday ahead of his title defense beginning Wednesday. “At the end of the day the rules officials said we did nothing wrong. When you have rules officials that come out and say that, as well, as you sit there and they’re able to go by the book and go by the rules and you don’t do anything wrong with that and there’s no real discussion about it, you go out there and play the best I can and do everything I’m supposed to and win the golf tournament.”
That’s how World No. 1 Jon Rahm sees it.
“We’re talking about one instance. He did win by five, right?” Rahm said. “So he played better than everybody else by quite a bit. Talking about an instance where only he knows what happened. I’m in no room to judge. As far as I’m concerned, he is the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open champion and he did it by five.
“It was great playing the whole week.”
When asked if the noise that follows him around will darken his legacy, Reed, 31, said he can just be who he is and keep moving on.
“The only thing I can do is keep on moving forward, keep trying to get the best I can on the golf course and handle myself how I feel like I’m supposed to off the golf course, whether it’s with my peers, whether it’s at home, whether it’s out on the road or anything like that,” he said. “As long as I feel like I’m doing the right things, all of it will take care of itself.”
Following the win, Reed’s year went off the rails. He didn’t add to his PGA Tour victory haul of nine and had just six more top 10s in 29 starts in 2021. After reaching No. 9 in the world early in 2021, he slipped to his present ranking of 26th.
He battled pneumonia in the summer and wasn’t selected to the Ryder Cup as a captain’s pick. He also was working on swing changes.
“I really think the biggest thing is anytime you can win on the PGA Tour throughout a year, it’s a good year,” Reed said. “Obviously to be a little bit more consistent, have more chances to win than one, that’s what turns it into a great year. I felt like last year was a good year for me. I didn’t feel it was my best, but really allowed me to sit down and kind of reflect on the things I did well.
“There are also things I need to change, and I feel like making that swing change and working with David Leadbetter and really locking in on that golf swing is something I need to do for the long term, and I feel like it’s going to pay dividends later on. I’m really looking forward to this year, especially coming on right now where I start feeling a little bit more comfortable with things that we’re working on.
“With that being said, just the confidence is through the roof because of that.”
And he’s in a good place. He’s finished in ties for 13th and sixth and won last year in his most recent three starts in the Farmers.
“I love this golf course,” he said. “It’s one of those golf courses where you really have to think your way around this place. It’s not just set up and hit driver and just attack. You actually have to have a pretty good game plan going into this place. I feel like I do better at harder golf courses and places you have to think around because it gets me more involved and more engaged in the golf shots.”