A 68 turned into a 70 for Rory McIlroy after he took relief from a second hole spectator crossing but still had part of his foot on the Ground Under Repair line marking the crossing. More intriguingly, McIlroy was notified of a possible issue on the 18th green by caddie Dave Renwick who was looping for playing partner Ricardo Gonzalez.
Alistair Tait, reporting from Abu Dhabi:
Renwick, McIlroy and European Tour chief referee John Paramor revisited the spot to confirm the violation.
“Rory’s ball came to rest in a marked gallery crosswalk to the left of the second fairway from which relief is available under the rules,” Paramor said. “When he actually stood tothe ball, his left foot was standing on or just over the line demarking the area of ground under repair. Therefore he has not taken complete relief, and he is in breach of Rule 25-1.”
McIlroy does not begrudge caddie Renwick for spotting the violation according to this comprehensive unbylined Belfast Telegraph story.
"You have to adhere to the rules of this game and he (Renwick) was pointing out something he thought was questionable," McIlroy added. "He was just doing what I guess anyone would."
Bob Harig sums up the crux of the issue:
This might be a dumb rule, and McIlroy is right to be angry about it. But he should know better, and so should his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald. Perhaps he was so close to the line, the events occurring so quickly, that they missed it. But another caddie in the group spotted the violation; he waited until after the round to tell McIlroy, so as not to distract him but to also make sure he could review the situation before signing his scorecard.
GolfChannel.com posted this interview with McIlroy after the round where McIlroy explains what happened and his view on the rule, which while clear, won't prove to be a proud day for the Rules of Golf: