Reed, who shot a 4-under 68 on Sunday to win the event, was allowed to take a drop from what he believed was an embedded lie on the 10th hole Saturday, sparking considerable conjecture as to whether it was warranted.
He had picked up his ball in the rough, thought he was entitled to relief and then called in rules official Brad Fabel, who after briefly testing the ground concurred and gave Reed the free drop. He went on to par the hole and began the fourth round tied for the lead at Torrey Pines with Carlos Ortiz.
Replays showed Reed's ball bounced, which he later admitted would suggest it didn't embed, but no one was aware of that at the time.
Also Saturday, McIlroy's second shot to the par-5 18th hole came to rest in the right rough, and he believed his ball had plugged. McIlroy could be heard saying so to another player in the group, Rory Sabbatini, who without inspecting the lie signed off on McIlroy's request for a drop. No rules official was called.
According to the PGA Tour, both issues were handled properly.
"It was reasonable for both players to conclude -- based on the fact that they did not see the ball land, but given the lie of the ball in soft course conditions -- that they proceed as the rule allows for a potential embedded ball," the Tour said in a statement. "They marked, lifted and assessed the situation to determine if the ball was embedded.
"Patrick went one step further and called in a rules official to be sure his assessment would not be questioned (although this step is not required). Both players took proper relief under the Rule 16/3. The committee is comfortable with how both players proceeded given the fact that they used the evidence they had at the time."
Reed faced considerable scrutiny for his action. The CBS broadcast team, including six-time major champion Nick Faldo, questioned how a ball could embed after bouncing. Reed, who has had rules-related issues in the past, including at the 2019 Hero World Challenge, faced several media questions about it afterward and said he believed he handled the matter properly, given what he knew.
Later, Reed pushed back against detractors on Twitter and noted the same thing occurred to McIlroy without any pushback.
"Rory McIlroy did the same thing today on Hole 18!" Reed tweeted. "And didn't even call a rules official over to deem the ball embedded. End of story."
McIlroy said he learned only after Sunday's final round that the PGA Tour had issued a statement about what occurred Saturday.
"I came in here yesterday after hearing about what Patrick had been through on the 10th hole, sort of giving him the benefit of the doubt because I just went through a similar thing on 18 yesterday," McIlroy said.
McIlroy said his second shot landed near three volunteers, but he did not see it. And it took awhile for him to find the ball with the help of the volunteers.
"I basically did the same thing as Patrick did," McIlroy explained. "I said, well, I'm going to just check if it's embedded. I just saw the video of it, because none of them saw it bounce, so I checked if it was embedded and it was in its pitch mark. I took the ball out and there was a lump of mud on it and it had broken the surface. I said to Rory Sabbatini, look, this ball's embedded, and he said yeah, no problem at all.''
Asked Sunday how he would have handled the situation himself, Xander Schauffele said he'd wait for an official.
"If my ball's embedded, I usually will wait and call someone and kind of wait until everyone's on the same page, wait to look at video," Schauffele said. "So I try to avoid situations like that just for that reason.
"You can put a tee in the ground and check your ball. I mean, [Reed] did everything by the book according to the official and everyone stood by there. Obviously the talk amongst the boys isn't great. But he's protected by the Tour and that's all that matters, I guess.''