Things appear to be looking up for Rory McIlroy. After starting the round ten shots out of contention on Sunday, McIlroy posted a final round four-under 67 to finish T2 (three-under total) at the Kolon Korea Open, where the world no. 6 headlined the fledgling field. However, he had a little bit — actually, quite a lot — of help from a fellow competitor.
McIlroy was near the top of the leaderboard the first two rounds, but blew up with a four-over 75, moving the wrong way on Saturday. Then, playing around six groups behind the ultimate twosome on Sunday, he bounced back to place strong. However, late in the day, a bizarre rules controversy involving the leaders Kim Hyung-tae and Kang Sung-hoon, detracted from the actual golf.
Kim stood on the 17th tee with an apparent two-shot lead when he was approached by a rules official who informed him and playing partner Hong Soon-sang that they had both grounded a club in an area deemed to be a hazard on the 13th, and what they thought were fours were actually sixes.
The pair finished their round, but before signing their scorecards they returned to the 13th — a par-three island green — and spent nearly two hours in deep discussion with officials, who also repeatedly consulted TV footage of the incident.
Kim argued he had never grounded his club, but was eventually persuaded to sign for a six by the Korean Golf Association rules committee, who had voted 5-3 against him.
He was adjudged to have violated rule 13.4, which deals with prohibited actions when a ball is in a hazard.
The resulting 77 left him at three under for a share of second place, one shot behind champion Kang but alongside two-time Major winner Rory McIlroy (67), Lee Sang-hee (68), Mo Joong-kyung (72) and amateur Lee Chang-woo (69).
It was a bizarre ending to a brutally tough tournament at the 6,582-metre (7,198-yard) Woo Jeong Hills Country Club course, near Cheonan, south of the capital, but Kang walks away with 300 million won (around U.S. $280,000) from the one billion won purse.
Here’s a GIF of the violation.
Unsurprisingly, Kang, who played the PGA Tour in 2011, had mixed feelings about the win.
“I’m a really good friend of his so at the moment it doesn’t feel great,” said Kang, referring to Kim. “Even though I won the tournament, I just feel really sorry for him. I was actually out there to celebrate for him, but … I don’t know … I don’t know what to say. It’s horrible.”
Meanwhile, Rory, who left the course before the rules ruckus started, lamented over a day of missed opportunities, where it sounds like he could have easily won the event had something, anything, gone his way.
“I could have shot anything, absolutely anything,” said McIlroy via the OneAsia Tour. “I only missed two greens and had so many chances, but it was like the story of yesterday — I just didn’t hole enough putts.
“I created so many more chances today that it could have been 61, 62. It just wasn’t to be. I didn’t birdie any of the par fives which was disappointing. It was tough. I felt like it could have been so much lower the last couple of days, yet I’m only, what, three off the leader? A little frustrating, but I’m happy with how I hit it. I hit the ball really well off the tee and my iron play was very solid as well. I feel like my game is in good shape going into the next few weeks, and that’s a good thing.”
In other Rory-related news, reports surfaced last week that Rory and his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki had broken up, but the tennis pro won her 21st tournament in Luxembourg on Sunday and Rory tweeted: