Patrick Reed incurred a two-stroke penalty for improving the area of his intended swing in the Hero World Challenge in December 2019.
Below you can see, what happened:
A closer look at Patrick Reed’s two-stroke penalty during Round 3 of the Hero World Challenge. pic.twitter.com/z2aqkajnYq
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 7, 2019
Reed took two backswings in sand very close to his ball in a waste area, and in both cases, sand was removed from the area of his intended swing.
Rule 8.1a forbids such an improvement, and therefore he was assessed a two-stroke penalty.
2) Why not four penalty strokes?
Some of you have asked why it was not a four-stroke penalty, since he did it twice. The reason is Rule 1.3c(4), which concerns multiple breaches:
If a player breaches … the same Rule multiple times before an intervening event happens (such as making a stroke or becoming aware of the breach), the penalty that applies depends on what the player did:….
When Breaches Resulted from a Single Act or Related Acts. The player gets only one penalty.
If he had repeated his action after his next stroke, he would have incurred two more penalty strokes.
3) Reed disagreed.
Patrick Reed stated that he accepted the penalty, but blamed the camera angle (golf. com):
It’s unfortunate because even though they weren’t, I wish [the cameras] were actually directly on the side of me, because it was in a pretty good footprint but the footprint was a full footprint,” Reed said, describing the ball as being at the front of the footprint. “I felt like — I mean, my club was that far behind the ball when I was actually taking the practice stroke, which I felt like I was taking it up and it was — obviously, it was hitting a little sand.
I didn’t feel like it really would have affected my lie, I mean every time I get in the bunker I’m scared to even get my club close to it, it was that far away, but whenever you do that if it does hit the sand, just like if you’re in a hazard area and you take a practice swing and it brushes grass and the grass breaks, it’s a penalty. So because of that and after seeing the video, I accept that, and it wasn’t because of any intent, I thought I was far enough away.
As far as I understand Reed’s disagreement, he did not think the sand was in a “Condition Affecting the Stroke” (i.e. it was not in the lie or in the area of his intended swing etc.). If that was true, he would not have incurred a penalty.
-> Do you remember when Mickelson was penalized for improving his line of play in 2018?
But since Reed was assessed a penalty, I assume the Rules official disagreed.
4) Intention relevant?
Social media has been writing a lot about Reed as if he were intentionally cheating etc., but I won’t go into that discussion. I will just underline that intention (of improving) does not matter when deciding whether or not you are in breach of Rule 8.1a.
The only thing that matters is whether or not you actually improved a “Condition Affecting the Stroke”. If you did, you are penalized, regardless of your intention.