JERSEY CITY, N.J. – It was the kind of mistake that could have ruined a round. Instead, for Rory McIlroy his brush with the Rules of Golf turned out to be a much-needed spark.
McIlroy was 2 under par for the day at The Northern Trust when his tee shot at the par-3 14th hole sailed into a bunker. As he was preparing to hit his next shot he reached to remove what he thought was a small rock, which is now allowed under the rules, when he realized it was actually a clump of sand.
After a lengthy discussion with a rules official, McIlroy was assessed a two-stroke penalty but on the next hole McIlroy began to question if they had made the correct ruling.
“The rules are the rules. But I knew that that rule had changed this year, and I just wasn't quite sure if that was the right ruling that was given on the course,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure.”
McIlroy met with rules officials following his round and after consulting with the USGA it was determined that he’d broken no rule and the two-stroke penalty was rescinded.
“They sort of went back and forth a little bit, and then it came down to me and they said, OK, are you comfortable telling us you didn't improve your lie, and for me, I am comfortable saying that,” McIlroy said.
Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions, reviewed the incident on replay and concluded that McIlroy “didn't improve his line of play or his intended swing.”
McIlroy birdied the 15th hole and ended up finishing with a 3-under 68 for a share of seventh place and was three strokes behind front-runner Dustin Johnson.
“In a way, it nearly worked in my favor. It was like, OK, I sort of need to get these two shots back, and I had a little bit more intensity the next few holes,” McIlroy said. “I guess my mind set was I wanted to get those two shots back that I had lost, that I thought I had lost in the bunker.”