Rory McIlroy admits not knowing the rules after being hit with two-shot penalty

McIlroy was penalised for an improper drop
McIlroy (L) was penalised for an improper drop - Getty Images/Christian Petersen

Rory McIlroy was handed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop on Thursday as he endured a nightmare opening round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The world No 2 had been in the lead after 10 holes and was six under through 14 after starting on the back nine at Spyglass Hill in California.

But after teeing off on the 6th hole, he made three straight bogeys including being assessed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop at the par-five 7th. It turned a bogey into a triple, which he followed with another bogey on the 8th, and finished the day at one under, eight shots adrift of leader Thomas Detry.

McIlroy was penalised for bringing his ball back on-line at the 7th and admitted that he did not know the rules on this had changed last year.

“So I took an unplayable on 7 and I took it back on-line,” McIlroy said. “Then unbeknownst to me, the rule changed in January 2023 where you used to be able to come back on-line, take a club length either side. That was changed in 2019 to be able to do that.

“I wasn’t aware that that rule was changed again in 2023, so I took a drop thinking of the 2019 rules when everything was sort of changed, not knowing that the rule was changed again in 2023, so I got a two-stroke penalty there.”

Belgium’s Detry holed a closing birdie to shoot a nine-under 63 at Pebble Beach. The world No 99’s birdie at the par-four 18th was his third in a row to close a six-under 30 on the back nine. It pushed him just ahead of Patrick Cantlay, who set the pace earlier in the afternoon with a bogey-free, eight-under 64.

The 80 players in the signature event’s field are playing one round apiece at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill to open the tournament. They will proceed to Pebble Beach for the weekend rounds without a 36-hole cut as they vie for shares of a $20 million (£15.7 million) purse.

Thomas Detry took the opening round lead at Spyglass Hill
Thomas Detry took the opening round lead at Spyglass Hill - GETTY IMAGES

France’s Matthieu Pavon – who earned his first PGA Tour victory last week at the Farmers Insurance Open in order to qualify – fired the low round of the day at Pebble Beach, a seven-under 65, putting him alone in third place.

Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (Spyglass Hill) and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim (Pebble Beach) are tied for fourth at six-under 66, and Rickie Fowler (Spyglass Hill) is tied for sixth with Collin Morikawa (Pebble Beach) at five-under 67.

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