For the second time in three years, Rory McIlroy is leaving Abu Dhabi and wondering what could have been.
Two years ago, McIlroy brushed away sand that wasn’t on the green, leading to a two-shot penalty. He went on to finish one behind Robert Rock.
This time, McIlroy was assessed a two-shot penalty after Round 3 for not taking full relief from a spectator path. “There are some stupid rules in golf,” he fumed afterward, “and this is one of them.” Once again, he finished one shot behind the winner, Pablo Larrazabal.
The only blemish on McIlroy’s scorecard Sunday was a bogey on the fifth hole. Other than that, he made five birdies, including four in the last 12 holes, but it wasn’t enough to earn his second title in his last three worldwide starts.
“I can’t describe how frustrating it is, and I feel like I should be standing ehre at 15 under par for the tournament and winning by one,” he told reporters afterward. “But that’s the way it goes. I played the least shots of anyone this week. So I count it as a moral victory more than anything else.”
That said, after a year of transition and turmoil, it appears McIlroy is well on his way to returning to the form that saw him nab majors in consecutive years. The world No. 7 has finished 11th or better in seven of his last eight starts.