• Abu Dhabi Championship

McIlroy hit with 'foot fault' penalty, Mickelson resurgent

ESPN staff
January 18, 2014
McIlroy was handed a two-shot penalty © Getty Images

Abu Dhabi Championship leaderboard

Rory McIlroy was hit with a two-shot penalty for a rules infraction after the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship that dropped him into tie for fourth.

McIlroy thought he was alone in second place after finishing a bogey-free round of 68, but tournament officials then ruled that he had taken a drop incorrectly on the second hole and adjusted his score to 70.

McIlroy said the infraction came when he took a free drop from a spectator crosswalk. The Northern Irishman, according to the official European Tour website, didn't take full relief. When he played his next shot after taking a free drop, his left foot was touching the white line of the crosswalk.

McIlroy said there was no video evidence that his foot was on the line and neither he nor his caddie realised the infraction at the time.

After the round, but before he signed his scorecard, McIlroy and European Tour officials went back to the spot and the world No.7 realised after finding his divot that there was no way he could have played the shot without his foot touching the line of the crosswalk.

"Stuff like this is sort of stupid and there's a lot of stupid rules in golf and this is one of them," McIlroy told the website, before tweeting about the incident, with reference to fiancee Caroline Wozniacki's tennis profession:

Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson, who barely made the cut, carded a 63 - the best round of the day by some three shots - to trail leader Craig Lee by two.

Mickelson, the Open champion, had been out of sorts over the first two days with rounds of 73 and 70, booking his place in the weekend with only one shot to spare.

But after going 9-under for the day in his third round, Mickelson propelled himself into the picture at the top of the leaderboard.

He was even in with a chance of making the European Tour's first ever 59 after birdies at 10, 11 and 13 following his front-nine 31. His bid was thwarted by a bogey at 14, though, but added further birdies at 15 and the last - where he hit his approach from a fairway bunker into a sandy waste area.

From under the tree branches, Mickelson sent a low pitch from 98 yards out onto the green, before sinking a 30-footer.

"It was not a smart decision out of the bunker to go for the green, but I don't know, that's just what I do," Mickelson joked. "Bones [his caddie Jim Mackay] did not like the decision and I don't blame him. It wasn't probably my smartest play.

"I hit a terrible shot but because it was sitting on a fairly hard, packed lie, I was able to go in steep and keep it low underneath the trees and I had plenty of green to work with.

"I will still be back a few shots I anticipate heading into the final round, but I love the fact that I'm in contention and I have an opportunity [to win] here in the first week of the year."

Phil Mickelson found the 18th green from under the trees in the sand © Getty Images
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