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Rory McIlroy's controversial penalty rescinded as new golf rules cause bunker confusion at The Northern Trust

What was your view on the Rory McIlroy bunker controversy?
What was your view on the Rory McIlroy bunker controversy?
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

A controversial two-shot penalty handed to Rory McIlroy during his second round at The Northern Trust event in the FedEx Cup play-offs has been rescinded.

McIlroy, who thought he had finished at seven under par, five behind the leader Dustin Johnson, moved up to -9 and just three shots back as a result.

The Northern Irishman was three off the lead when he found the bunker on the par three 14th.

Before playing his shot, McIlroy reached down to remove what he thought was a small stone behind his ball in the sand.

However, when he touched it, McIlroy realised it was just a clump on sand.

Under the rules as they used to stand, no impediment could be removed. However, that all changed this year as players are now permitted to 'remove loose impediments' from the bunker.

As the on-course referee recognised, the danger of the new rules is this very situation.

Having touched what he thought was a loose impediment (a stone), but turned out to be sand, McIlroy took it upon himself to draw the attention of the officials, who eventually handed him a two-shot penalty for touching the sand.

The new rules of golf indicate that players cannot 'deliberately touch sand in the bunker with (their) hand, club or rake...to test the condition of the sand and learn information for (their) next stroke'.

A penalty will also be handed out if touching the sand 'improves the conditions affecting' the player's shot.

McIlroy argued that he did not feel he had moved the sand or improved his lie but nonetheless, accepted the penalty until the decision was overturned on completion of the round.

He went on to make an up-and-down for double bogey.

Even more impressively, McIlroy bounced back with a birdie at the 15th.

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