Rory McIlroy says his embedded ball at last week’s PGA Tour event was the result of a volunteer stepping on it during a search but not telling him.
The Northern Irishman took a free drop after thinking his ball had embedded in the ground after he hit a shot.
The incident occurred during Saturday’s third round but the volunteer did not let the PGA Tour know until Monday.
“The volunteer said something like ‘I’m so sorry Rory has been dragged into this scenario’,” added McIlroy.
Heavy rain had made the ground soft at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and McIlroy’s second shot to the 18th plunged into deep rough.
A television replay, broadcast on Sunday by way of comparison to a similar shot played on the 10th hole on Saturday by Patrick Reed, showed that McIlroy’s ball, like the American’s, had bounced before coming to rest.
Both players took a free drop for an embedded ball. The PGA Tour confirmed both players proceeded “as the rule allows”.
“The video came out on Sunday of my ball bouncing and then going in,” said McIlroy in Wednesday’s news conference before this week’s PGA Tour event in Phoenix.
“At that point, I thought it must have gone into its own pitchmark because the ball was obviously plugged but 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.
“That’s why I took embedded ball relief. It was an embedded ball but I didn’t know it had been stepped on.”
McIlroy told his playing partner that he was taking embedded ball relief and did not call over a rules official, which is in line with the rules of golf.
However, he said: “I went to bed on Sunday night questioning whether I had done the right thing after seeing the video. Did I do the right thing? Did I play by the rules? Did I see something that wasn’t there?
“It was a bit of a rough Sunday night. I just started to doubt myself a little bit which is not like me but I was convinced it was an embedded ball.
“Then, it’s so weird the tour got an email on Monday from a volunteer saying that he didn’t tell me at the time and he should have.
“I should have taken relief for a stepped-on ball which means that you could place it instead of dropping it.
“I at least felt better about my actions knowing that I did the right thing. It’s nice that that came to light because I was sort of questioning myself on Sunday a little bit.”