The player has driven his ball 60 yards off line into a wooded area. Two of his partners are on the fairway but not closer to the hole.
As the player walks into the wooded area he sees a ball. As he walks towards it, he tells his playing partners that he can see his ball. They leave and return to the fairway. As the player gets closer to the ball, he discovers that the ball is lying in as area of casual water and is quite muddy. He waits for his turn to play as he wants to take relief from the casual water but is unwilling to do so until his playing partners agree the casual water position.
After the other players have hit their second shots he calls them to witness the casual water etc. They agree that he is entitled to relief. The player then tramps through the mud and water only to discover that it is not his ball.
The player then claims that he is entitled to search for his original ball within a 3-minute period and starts to search under rule 18.2, stating that he did not believe his ball was missing until he identified the wrong ball in the casual water.
Was he entitled to take this course of action?