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Thursday 21 September 2017

Rory hit by sand storm

McIlroy accepts penalty for 'stupid mistake'

Rory McIlroy promised never to make the same mistake again after a two-shot penalty cost him a share of the halfway lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Ireland's US Open champion would have been alongside Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen -- a rather less well-known 22-year-old -- if he hadn't brushed sand away from his line on the ninth hole of his second round.

It would have been all right if it had been on the green, but he was six feet off the putting surface and world number one Luke Donald instantly brought it to his attention.

"I wasn't thinking clearly and just made a very stupid mental mistake," McIlroy said after a level-par 72 left him tied for third on five-under par and part of a group which also included playing partner Tiger Woods.

Asked if he did not know the rule or just had a loss of concentration, he added: "It was a little bit of both -- first week back as well. Luke said, 'Don't think you can do that', and I was like, 'Oh yeah, I can't!'.

"It happens and you just have to take it on the chin. I'll definitely not do it again."

McIlroy certainly did not blame Donald for pointing it out and remembered what happened to Pádraig Harrington in the same event last year.

The Dubliner shot an opening 65, but then was disqualified after a TV viewer spotted that his ball had moved a fraction on a green.

There was outcry about the unfairness of that and the rule was subsequently changed, but on this incident McIlroy said: "It's a bit of a weird rule. You can move a loose impediment like a divot out of your line. You can't move sand.

"Not a weird rule, but a tricky rule. That's the same penalty as hitting the ball out of bounds. It's tough, but the rules are the rules and we've got to play by them.

"I'm sure Luke was put in an awkward position there, but he had to say it.

"If I was in his position I would have said the same thing.

"It's fine. I have a hundred more tournaments to play, so it's not life and death."

While world number one Donald remained deep in the pack on one under after a round of 72, Woods is right in the thick of things heading into the weekend.

He is, of course, going for a second successive victory after more than two barren years.

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