Rory McIlroy avoids penalty after bunker drama at The Northern Trust
Last Updated: 10/08/19 12:33am
Rory McIlroy was involved in a bunker penalty drama during the second round of The Northern Trust.
The Northern Irishman appeared to have been given a two-shot penalty for touching the sand with his finger in a greenside bunker at the par-three 14th.
However, after completing his round, it was confirmed that McIlroy had not been penalised as he had not improved his lie when trying to move what he thought was a stone but turned out to be a clump of sand.
As a result, the world No 3 carded a three-under 68, instead of a 70, which put him on nine under and just three shots behind the halfway leader Dustin Johnson.
McIlroy said: "So the outcome is there was no penalty. They reviewed it.
"I knew that rule had changed this year a little bit in the bunkers or the penalty areas or whatever they are calling it. I thought there was a rock sort of beside my ball, and I went to pick it up. So I touched it and I realised it wasn't a rock, so I just went, 'oh, that's not a rock, but I touched the sand, right'.
"It's such a grey area. But the way the rule is written, it's like 12.1 and then refers to 8.2 or whatever it is, but it says if there's no intent and if you haven't improved your lie, and you haven't improved your line of play; and I'm very comfortable.
"The reason I called someone over is I don't want anything on my conscience, either. I feel like I play the game with integrity and I'm comfortable saying that I didn't improve anything. I thought it was a rock; it wasn't. I moved my hand away, and then I was like, 'I don't know if I've done anything wrong here'.
"They got the USGA involved. Rang them. They sort of went back and forth a little bit, and then it came down to me and said, 'okay, are you comfortable telling us you didn't improve your lie?', and for me, I am comfortable saying that."
PGA Tour rules official Slugger White said: "It becomes an 8.1 situation, where did he improve? On the 12.2 situation, it says deliberately touching to test the condition, of which he did not do.
"That's the reason we revert back to the ruling, 8.1, where he touched it, but nothing improved. Dave (Donnelly) and I both asked him, 'did you improve?' He said, 'Absolutely not'. He said he was 100 per cent sure that nothing happened to improve."
McIlroy started his round with four pars before bogeying the fifth after driving into water, but he bounced back with birdies at the three par-fives - the sixth, eighth and 13th.
He also birdied the 15th after quickly putting the drama at the 14th behind him and then missed two more birdie chances at the 16th and 17th before scrambling a par at the last.
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"I'm two shots closer to the lead than I thought I was," he added.
"Being nine under going into tonight instead of seven under; instead of five shots behind Dustin, I'm three, which is a pretty big deal.
"I could have got a couple more out of my round. I missed those putts on 16 and 17, but overall I felt like I chipped and putted it well and made birdies when I could. It's going to be an exciting weekend."