That groundhog better pop out of his hole with good news tomorrow. This whole pandemic winter thing is getting old.

The man of the hour

Before we get to the story of the weekend, let’s start with the basics. Patrick Reed notched his ninth career PGA Tour win by a five-shot margin at the Farmers Insurance Open. After opening the week with a 64 on the North Course at Torrey Pines, Reed marched to victory with rounds of 72-70-68 on the difficult South Course. He finished 10.2 strokes better than field average this week, with 8.4 of those strokes coming on or around the greens. Farmers Insurance Open Results

While Reed’s play was certainly impressive, you’re not here to read about his up-and-down prowess.

The talk of the weekend was Patrick Reed’s handling of a drop he took left of the 10th green on Saturday. You’ve probably seen the clip by now, but here’s the video in case you’ve been off the grid.

A basic summary: as Reed approached his ball in the rough, he asked a tournament volunteer whether his ball had bounced. “No, I didn’t see it bounce,” she said. Reed then crouched over his ball, felt around in the grass, and… picked the ball up! Evidently he had already decided that the ball was embedded, entitling him to free relief. Later, a rules official arrived, probed the spot where Reed said his ball had been, and granted the drop. Reed proceeded to get up and down for par.

Soon, a slow-mo replay revealed that Reed’s ball had taken a healthy hop forward, which means it almost certainly didn’t plug on landing. Nonetheless, the PGA Tour rushed to his defense after the round, stating that he had done everything by the book.

Indeed, according to the letter of the law, Reed was not obligated to call an official before picking up his ball. Besides, he was operating under the assumption that it had not bounced. But here’s the thing: it did bounce! So when Reed assessed his lie, it’s really unlikely that he saw an unmistakably embedded ball. In uncertain situations like that, you don’t just grab the ball and toss it to the side. You call for another set of eyes.

Complicating matters, it turned out that Rory McIlroy had done something similar on Saturday. On the 18th hole, he took embedded-ball relief without calling for a rules official. His ball, too, had bounced in the rough before coming to rest. In response to questions from reporters on Sunday, McIlroy asserted that his ball was definitely plugged, and that it must have come to rest in its initial pitch mark.

Many people have argued (are currently arguing!) that it’s unfair for Reed to get more heat for his actions than Rory. True—the situations were quite similar, and any player who bends or breaks the rules deserves criticism. But track records matter: McIlroy has earned the benefit of the doubt over the years. Reed, on the other hand, has garnered more or less the opposite kind of reputation.

Everyone from CBS’s announcers to Golf Channel’s Jaime Diaz and Brandel Chamblee weighed in on the kerfuffle this weekend, and you’ve likely formed your own opinion. But it was runner-up Xander Schauffele who really hit the bullseye: “Obviously the talk amongst the [players] isn’t great, I guess, but he’s protected by the Tour, and that’s all that matters,” he said.

Patrick Reed has gotten away with questionable behavior in golf tournaments across the world, and all he has to show for it is a bad rep and a two-shot penalty in the Bahamas. But he is protected by the PGA Tour, and that’s all that matters.

The burner

Adding to the Patrick Reed drama on Saturday was a tweet from his official Twitter account that basically said, “Rory did it, too!”—just with more rage and capital letters. The same tweet, word for word, was sent from another account, @useGolfFACTS.

For the past year, denizens of Golf Twitter have suspected @useGolfFACTS of being operated by Team Reed. The account’s interests include defending Patrick Reed, attacking Patrick Reed’s rivals, and bad-mouthing the PGA Tour for conspiring against Patrick Reed. The slip-up on Saturday night all but confirms that @useGolfFACTS is a burner run by either Reed himself or someone with the keys to his official account.

Will this sit well with the suits in Ponte Vedra? It shouldn’t, but we’ll probably never know. In his post-victory press conference, Reed faced zero questions about his (or, say, his wife’s?) Twitter activities.

Quick Hooks

Paul Casey won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic for his 15th career European Tour title and 19th worldwide victory. He also took home this MASSIVE trophy. Let’s hope he flew private because that thing isn’t fitting in the overhead bin.

Many players started Sunday within striking distance of Patrick Reed at the Farmers Insurance Open, but Viktor Hovland was the only one to make a real charge. A two-time PGA Tour winner, Hovland put himself in great position with a front-nine 32, but he stumbled home with a 40 on the back nine. Still, for a 23-year-old whose wins have come at Mayakoba and Puerto Rico, Torrey Pines was a big, big stage. Chalk it up to useful experience.

Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele were both in the pack at T-2. It was Finau’s 40th top-10 finish without a victory, and it was Schauffele’s 14th consecutive top 25.

Will Zalatoris (T-7) secured his PGA Tour membership last fall and got his 2021 season off to a strong start this weekend at Torrey. This 72nd-hole eagle vaulted him into the top 10.

Kamaiu Johnson, who had to withdraw from the Farmers after a positive Covid test, now has not one but two PGA Tour sponsor exemptions lined up. The Advocates Professional Golf Association star will tee it up at both the Honda Classic and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

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Shotgun Start: A “Reed Day”

The new month starts down a path we’ve been before: Patrick Reed engulfed in a shady rules controversy of his own making and the PGA Tour covering for him. This Monday episode jumps right into the drama from the weekend. Andy explains why this wasn’t nearly to the level of the sandcastles Reed built at the Hero Challenge. Brendan argues that this seemed to be an M.O. for Reed, his behavior indicating that this is part of some usual decision tree for getting better lies. They react to all the condemnation, even from some of the most down-the-middle voices in the game, like the analysts at CBS. The larger point, however, is that this illustrates yet again the vast unregulated gray area that the PGA Tour now lives in and how that seems untenable with gambling now becoming such a large part of the operation. After that lengthy discussion on the rules drama, they get into the actual brilliance of Patrick Reed’s play and how lamentable it is that all of it is overshadowed. Andy has some numbers showing how lofty the company Reed keeps from a resume perspective, and how he might have more staying power than all of them. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

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