ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — McIlroy thought he was alone in second place a stroke behind Lee after finishing his third round Satruday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but tournament officials then ruled that he had taken a drop incorrectly on the second hole and adjusted his score to a double-bogey 7. That gave him a 70 for the round to sit one stroke behind Mickelson and Gaganjeet Bhullar of India (66).
McIlroy had to take relief on the second hole when his ball ended up on a gallery crosswalk and went on to par the hole, but was later told by the caddy of 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.
Tournament officials reviewed the situation after McIlroy completed his round, with the golfer going back to the spot to show where he stood when he took the shot.
"I didn't even know my foot was on the line," McIlroy said. "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. I guess I was so much into the shot I didn't even realize. … There's a lot of stupid rules and this is one of them."
To make matters worse, McIlroy said his drop had actually given him a bad lie and that he would have benefited from dropping again.
"If anything, it was a disadvantage," McIlroy said.
McIlroy had finished the round without a bogey, making his fourth birdie of the day on the 18th.
"To a spectator it may feel like I have been unduly punished, and that's what it feels like to me, but it's a rule of the game. I do feel like I have been hard done by but it's nothing that a fast start tomorrow can't fix."