It's snory Rory! I was brain-dead, he admits after two-shot penalty dents title bid
Rory McIlroy confessed he had been 'brain-dead' and was a 'stupid whatever' after being assessed a two shot penalty for breaking one of golf's basic rules at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday.
Luke Donald didn't feel too clever either after being the unfortunate soul who had to point out his elementary mistake.
The incident happened at the par-four 9th hole, with McIlroy just off the green in two. With sand on the line between his ball and the hole, he bent down and brushed away the grains with the back of his hand. Oh dear.
Sand trapped: Rory McIlroy was penalised after Luke Donald called his error
'I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to that, Rory,' said Donald, and he was absolutely correct. It was a clear breach of Rule 13-2, which points out a player is not allowed to move any sand that lies on the line of his shot when he is off the green.
Yes, it's another stupid rule. How can it be ok to move the sand when you're on the green but not when you're just off it How can a two shot penalty be the correct punishment and wouldn't one stroke be fairer
All valid points but stupid or not, Rory knew the rule, as every player should, and just acted unthinkingly.
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2nd rnd (GB & Ire unless stated):
137 — T Olesen (Den) 67.
138 — G Maybin 70, M Manassero (It) 65.
139 — J-B Gonnet (F) 71, R McIlroy 72, T Woods (US) 69, R Karlsson (Swe) 72, R Rock 70, R Finch 71, Paul Lawrie 69.
140 — R Ramsay 71, C Schwartzel (SA) 70, S Garcia (Sp) 69, JM Lara (Sp) 70, P Harrington 69. 141 — F Molinari (It) 67, A Hansen (Den) 70, J Kingston (SA) 69, G McDowell 69, MA Jimenez (Sp) 69, W-C Liang (Chn) 71, J Edfors (Swe) 71.
143 — L Donald 72.
144 — L Westwood 72.
147 — C Montgomerie 76
'Maybe it was because it was just the second round of the season and I was a little brain-dead,' he said. 'It's amazing how quickly you get out of your normal routine when you have a few weeks off. At the end of the day it was one of those things. Sure, you're calling yourself a stupid whatever and I certainly hit the tee shot at the 10th a lot harder. But I'm only two shots off the lead and we've still got two rounds to play.'
McIlroy was quick to absolve Donald.
'I'm sure he felt a little awkward saying it but he was absolutely right to do so. Everybody has to play by the rules. That's what golf is, a gentleman's game,' he said.
The good news for the many thousands of spectators who enjoyed following McIlroy and his other playing partner Tiger Woods is they got the chance to do so again in the third round.
The two shot penalty meant the pair finished on the same score of five under, and breathing down the neck of the little-known leader, promising Dane, Thorbjorn Oleson.
Eagle eye: McIlroy said playing partner Donald was right to call his mistake
On six under are Ulsterman Gareth Maybin and another of Europe's bright young things – 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero.
As for the Woods-McIlroy match-up for a third straight day, the latter couldn't hide his delight.
'As everyone knows I grew up idolising Tiger so it's a great thrill to be playing with him again,' he said. 'I enjoy the buzz of the crowd, and the excitement.'
For those who like their days filled with drama and incident, this was a beauty.
We had Padraig Harrington rekindling something of his glory days under the watchful eye of the latest edition to his team, rugby man Dave Alred.
We had another past major champion in Paul Lawrie giving another example that he is currently swinging the club better than at any time in his career.
In contention: Tiger Woods is just two shots behind the leader
We had lesser lights like Oleson and Ulsterman Maybin relishing the chance to mix it with the big names.
We had Robert Rock and Richard Finch demonstrating that the talent pool from England is ocean-deep.
Perhaps most meaningful of all, we had another exciting demonstration from Woods, who didn't play quite as well as he did on the opening day but holed a few of the type of putts he missed in the first round.
As Donald said: 'On Thursday in particular his control of his golf ball was as good as I have seen it. He was shaping it both ways, so that's a daunting sign for the rest of us.'
Don't rule out Tiger's first victory this weekend on one of the two main tours in two and a half years. What a story that would be to herald the new season.
Your leader: Thorbjorn Olesen heads the field after carding a fine 67
'I'm putting together a run of good scores because I have a greater understanding of what my coach Sean Foley wants me to do,' he said. 'I had a chance to win in Dubai last February and didn't get it done but this time I am armed with so much more knowledge of my swing.
'Having said that it is such a bunched leaderboard there are a lot of guys who will think they can win. I know I am going to have to produce over the weekend.'
Also on the comeback trail at three behind is Harrington, who took note of the impact Alred has had on Donald's play over the past 18 months and booked himself an appointment.
'He's certainly a man in demand for it has taken me six months to get this trial week with him, but it has been very worthwhile,' he said. 'What he is doing is helping me take what I am working on at the range on to the course, for that has been a problem for me for the past two years.
Return to form: Padraig Harrington hits his tee-shot on the 12th hole
'What he's good at is keeping me on my toes, so that I am not just hitting ball after ball on the range without purpose. He's not inventing the wheel but he might be reinventing it.'
Three-time major winner Harrington fell so far last year he didn't even finish among the top 60 in the order of merit who qualified for the season-ending Dubai World Championship. No wonder he looked so pleased after his second round 69. He addressed waiting reporters: 'Everyone wants to talk to me again and it's great!'
Will he be scrapping with Luke for Alred's attention
'No I'm fully aware that Luke has first call on his services but I'm happy on this occasion to play the role of the mistress,' he said.
How nice that over the last two rounds of this event he was back playing the role of potential champion.