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Despite two-shot penalty, McIlroy in contention

Rory McIlroy
Getty Images

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – It was a temporary lapse that cost Rory McIlroy two strokes but, thanks to a gritty back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, not his chance to contend.

In a rare violation of the Rules of Golf, the Ulsterman was penalized two strokes when he removed sand from his line just off the ninth green.

Video: McIlroy discusses infraction

“I just brushed the sand and Luke (Donald) was like, ‘I don’t think you can brush sand off the fringe,’” said McIlroy, who would have been allowed to brush away the sand had his golf ball been on the green. “I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re right.’ Just one of those things.”

It could have been a tournament killer, but McIlroy rallied with birdies at Nos. 10 and 12 and made a key putt at the 11th hole for bogey. He signed for 72 and finished tied with Woods at 5 under and will be paired again with the former world No. 1 on Saturday.

“(Caddie) J.P. (Fitzgerald) said something to me out there today, ‘It’s only Friday,’” McIlroy said. “It’s not like these things are happening to you on a Sunday afternoon.”