Rory McIlroy was hit with a two-shot penalty for a rules infraction in the third round of the HSBC Golf Championship that dropped him into a tie for fourth place as Scotland’s Craig Lee installed himself at the top of the leaderboard.
Phil Mickelson, who barely made the cut, went round in a nine-under-par 63 to put himself in second place. He produced nine birdies and an eagle to lie two shots behind Lee (69).
McIlroy thought he was in second place, a stroke behind Lee, after finishing his round but tournament officials then ruled that he took a drop incorrectly on the second hole and adjusted his score. That gave him a 70 for the round to sit one stroke behind Mickelson and Gaganjeet Bhullar of India, who made a 66.
McIlroy had to take relief at the second when his ball ended up on a gallery crosswalk and went on to par the hole, but was later told by the caddy of his playing partner Ricardo Gonzalez that he had his left foot on the white line marking the drop area, meaning he had not taken “full relief” according to the rules.
“We went back to see it again there and see where my divot was, and it was clear that I couldn’t have played the shot with my feet anywhere else,” said the Northern Irishman. “There’s a lot of stupid rules and this is one of them.”