Rory McIlroy handed two-stroke penalty at Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
The punishment drops former world No.1 three shots behind leader
American Phil Mickelson finds form to move to two shots off the lead
Scotland's Craig Lee takes 12-under-par lead into final day in the desert
The eagle eyes of his playing partner’s caddie halted Rory McIlroy’s charge at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
McIlory was poised to finish the day one shot behind leader Craig Lee but instead he was handed a two-stroke penalty after Ricardo Gonzalez’s bag man threw doubt over McIlroy’s play at the second hole.
The former world No.1 was subsequently judged to have taken his shot with one foot on the white line that marks the spectator’s path on the course.
“I hit my second shot on the second hole just into the left rough, but it was in the spectator crosswalk, so I took a drop, which obviously you’re allowed to do out of it,” McIlroy explained to reporters.
“I didn’t notice it but my left foot was still on the white line as I played the shot and you need to take full relief.
“I dropped it in a really bad lie, so actually had I known, I would have taken a better drop.
“It was unfortunate, but that’s the rules of this game. I don’t feel like I gained any sort of advantage by my foot being on a bit of white paint.
“I have to try to make up the shots as early as possible tomorrow. It gives me a bit of extra motivation.”
Phil Mickelson may have squeezed his way through the cut but the American hit a sweet spot in Saturday’s third round.
The British Open champion sunk nine birdies and an eagle to move two shots adrift of the lead alongside India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar.
“I love the fact that I have a chance and that I’m in contention the first tournament out this year,” Mickelson said.
“I love that I’ve played better each day. The first day, I felt terrible. The second day, half of it started to come around and today it started to feel pretty good and hopefully I’ll be able to build on it again.”
At the top of the tree, Lee is hoping for a fairytale finish to the Abu Dhabi tournament as he chases his first European Tour win.
“The quality of the players behind me is nothing I have been used to before,” said Lee, who holds the lead on 12 under par.
“It’s possible – and fairytales do happen.”