Only in golf can a fateful few grains of sand alter the course of an entire round. Fortunately for Rory McIlroy, his misstep didn’t turn out to be too costly.
During the second round of the Northern Trust on Friday, McIlroy found himself in quite the rules quandary when he attempted to remove a loose pebble near his ball in a bunker on the par-3 14th hole. That pebble turned out to be a clump of sand, which you’re not allowed to move.
McIlroy self-reported the infraction and was assessed a two-stroke penalty, which he later told the PGA Tour he accepted because he didn’t want to hold up play. That would have been a bad look given that he had complained about pace of play on the Tour just two days ago.
Rory McIlroy thought he was removing a loose impediment from a bunker, but then realized it was just sand.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 9, 2019
He alerted a rules official and was given a two-shot penalty.
He was three back of the lead at the time of the penalty. pic.twitter.com/Ayp8zWw9Ei
McIlroy later consulted with PGA rules official Slugger White after the round and managed to talk his way out of the penalty.
All it took was a promise to the officials that he didn’t improve his lie with the adjustment.
“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 told the Golf Channel.
After speaking with @PGATOURRules at the completion of R2 @TheNTGolf , the two-stroke penalty that @McIlroyRory was assessed for touching what he thought was a rock in a bunker on the par-3 14th hole has been rescinded. He sits 65-68–133 (-9) through 36 holes.— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) August 9, 2019
McIlroy eventually finished 3-under for the day to put him in a five-way tie for seventh place at 9-under. Dustin Johnson, who is extraordinarily familiar with sand mishaps like McIlroy’s, leads at 12-under.
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