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Rory McIlroy has revealed that PGA Tour officials advised him on Monday that there was more to his “embedded ball” controversy from last week’s Farmers Insurance Open than first met the eye.

In the aftermath of the chaos that followed Patrick Reed getting free relief from a questionable lie on the tenth hole during Saturday’s third round, the PGA Tour volunteered video footage of a similar incident that involving four-time major champ McIlroy from the same day.

In the clip, McIlroy can be heard advising his playing partners that his ball was embedded in the rough before taking the relief to which he was entitled under Rule 16/3. 

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The tour even took the unusual step of releasing a statement clearly both Reed and McIlroy of any wrongdoing. 

However, speaking to the media ahead of this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, McIlroy revealed that tour officials privately reached out to him on Monday with more information on his own incident.

“An email was sent to the tour on Monday saying my ball was stepped on but the volunteer didn’t tell me that on Saturday,” explained McIlroy.

“That’s why I took embedded ball relief, because it was an embedded ball. I didn’t know it had been stepped on at the time. So obviously the video came out on Sunday with my ball bouncing and then going in, and at that point I’m like, well, it must have gone into its own pitch mark or something, because the ball was obviously plugged.

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“Then it came to light on Monday that a volunteer had stepped on it and hadn’t told me, and that’s why the ball was embedded. 

“”I went to bed Sunday night sort of questioning whether I had done the right thing after seeing the video. I guess at the end of the day I almost took the wrong relief because I should have taken relief for a stepped on ball, which means you can place it instead of drop it. At the time I didn’t have that information.”

He added: “I at least felt better about my actions knowing I did the right thing, that I did take relief for a ball that was embedded or stepped on. So it sort was nice that it came to light, because I was questioning myself on Sunday a little bit. It’s funny how these things all work out at the end.”

Accusations towards McIlroy were originally levelled by a Twitter account linked to Reed’s team. However, the Northern Irishman dismissed any notion that Reed himself had anything to do with the tweets.

“I’m not sure it was Patrick,” he said. “Could have been someone from the Reed family, but I don’t think it was Patrick.”


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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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