McIlroy pays the penalty in Abu Dhabi yet claims moral victory

 
Julian Harris
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GOLF’S former world No1 Rory McIlroy was left to rue a two-shot penalty at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship that ultimately cost the Northern Irishman a morale-boosting victory.

McIlroy ended 13 under par yesterday, level with Open champion Phil Mickelson and just one stroke behind the winner, Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal.

But he would have won had he not been penalised two strokes on Saturday for having his foot touching the spectator walkway while finishing off the second hole.

“I feel like I’m standing here and I should be 15 under par and win by one," McIlroy said yesterday.

“I can count it as a moral victory. It’s a very positive start to the season so I’m not going to let one little negative ruin that.”

The penalty, slammed by McIlroy on Saturday as “stupid”, marked the second time the 24-year-old has fallen foul of the Abu Dhabi referees. Two years ago at the same competition, where he has now finished second three times, he was penalised for brushing away some sand that was outside the green.