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McIlroy claims 'moral victory' as he pays the penalty

SPAIN'S Pablo Larrazabal won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship yesterday as Phil Mickelson imploded and a rules blunder by Rory McIlroy (pictured) left him only able to claim a "moral victory".

Larrazabal carded a final round of 67 to finish 14 under par, one stroke ahead of Major winners McIlroy and Mickelson, both left to rue vital mistakes.

For McIlroy, it was taking an incorrect drop on the second hole of his third round, an error which cost him a two-shot penalty and left him fuming about golf's "stupid rules".

Two years ago, the former world number one was penalised two shots for brushing away sand that was not on the green, but which lay between his ball and the flag. He went on to finish one behind winner Robert Rock.

Mickelson's wound was also self-inflicted, the American leading by one when he ran up a triple-bogey seven on the 13th after attempting to hit a right-handed escape shot from under a bush, only to suffer a 'double-hit' when his ball struck the bush and bounced back onto his club. The 43-year-old bounced back in typical fashion with birdies on the 14th and 16th, but was unable to find the eagle he needed on the 18th to force a play-off.

McIlroy had played alongside Larrazabal and the pair were both three under for the day after 11 holes, but while McIlroy's challenge stalled with a run of seven straight pars, Larrazabal birdied the 13th and hit two superb shots to the heart of the 18th green to set up the decisive birdie.

"I can't describe (how frustrating it is)," said McIlroy. "I feel like I'm standing here and I should be 15-under par for the tournament and win by one, but that's the way it goes. I played the least shots of anyone this week. I can count it as a moral victory more than anything else."

Mickelson had gone from two shots behind overnight leader Craig Lee to one ahead with three birdies in 10 holes before the 13th certainly proved unlucky for him.

Mickelson said he could not remember the last time he suffered a double-hit, but added: "I have done it. I have done a lot of crazy s**t over the years."