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An ironic finish at the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic — with Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, days after their Tee-gate feud on the driving range, placing first and second, respectively — even had a controversy attached to it from the third round.
Reed claimed to have spotted his ball on the 17th hole in a tree, which allowed him to drop his ball in the rough instead of hitting from the tee box again, per ESPN. But according to a breakdown from NBC Golf, Reed and on-course officials incorrectly identified the tree where his ball was stuck.
Even if it was the correct tree, identifying which ball was his would’ve been nearly impossible, golf analyst Brandel Chamblee said.
“When we zoom out and you see in these palm fronds, there are scores of golf balls in there,” Chamblee said in the video clip, “and since most professional golfers predominantly play Titleist Pro V1s, it’s reasonable to assume it’s littered with Pro V1s in there.”
In a post-round interview, Reed said that he “got lucky” and was able to identify his ball — a Titleist Pro V1 with an arrow marked on it — with binoculars, according to @TOURMISS, a reporter present at the interview. Reed added he was “100%” certain it was his ball.
“You definitely could see and identify that that was the line with the arrow at the end,” Reed said.
The problem, though, emerged when Chamblee used a slow-motion replay of the shot. Reed noted on the course that his ball was lost in the third tree, but his ball seemingly never went that far. It would’ve needed to change its speed and gain more height before it even had a chance to land in the furthest tree, Chamblee said.
“Now remember, it’s hitting tee side of that tree,” Chamblee said. “So it’s likely gonna bounce back to the tee or over to the fairway or over into the sand, if it bounces. But we didn’t see it bounce.”
Reed is currently suing Chamblee and the Golf Channel for defamation, seeking a whopping $750 million in damages over claims Chamblee tried to “destroy [Reed’s] reputation, create hate, and a hostile work environment” through his commentary.
Reed, a former Masters winner, joined the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf in 2022. The lawsuit, which was dismissed without prejudice and then refiled, claimed Chamblee defamed other LIV defectors, as well.
According to @TOURMISS, tournament officials said that two on-course referees, “several marshals” and the DP World Tour Chief Referee assisted with the process. Reed wasn’t “asked to specify the tree but to identify his distinctive ball markings to confirm it was his ball,” the statement read.
Reed, who recorded a bogey on the hole, finished with a 3-under 69 that day, but he shot a 7-under 65 in the final round to put himself at the top of the leaderboard. McIlroy, though, birdied the final two holes to win the European Tour event at 19-under. McIlroy sank the game-winning birdie putt on the 18th hole and pumped his first afterward, as the world’s No. 1 golfer won the Dubai Desert Classic title for the third time in his career.
McIlroy and Reed were involved in ongoing drama ahead of the tournament, as Reed tossed a tee in McIlroy’s direction on the driving range when the latter wouldn’t shake his hand. Other golfers began poking fun at the saga.