Sport Golf

Monday 19 August 2019

McIlroy survives penalty scare to stay in contention

Tiger Woods feeling the strain on the opening day of the Northern Trust. Photo: Getty
Tiger Woods feeling the strain on the opening day of the Northern Trust. Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy breathed a heavy sigh of a relief after he came out on the right side of a two-stroke penalty call that could have severely dented his hopes of victory at the Northern Trust in Jersey City.

The Holywood star, on eight-under par, was stalking the leaders coming down the 14th, but he was penalised for deliberately touching the sand in a greenside bunker at the 149-yard par-three after calling the offence on himself.

The 30-year-old thought his ball had been resting on a stone but after moving it, he realised it was a clump of sand - rather than a loose impediment - and he was penalised two strokes by the referee.

After getting up and down from the sand it looked as if McIlroy would have to add a punishing double-bogey five to his scorecard, but after his round the penalty was assessed and then rescinded.

He responded well to the drama at the 14th by picking up a birdie at the next and ultimately signed for a second-round 68 to sit at nine-under par, in a tie for seventh, three shots behind sole leader Dustin Johnson, who is one clear of Jordan Spieth.

Shane Lowry also found his range in Jersey City, the Open champion carding a four-under 67 to move to six-under for the tournament - in a tie for 19th.

Graeme McDowell won't be playing this weekend however, as his one-over total, after yesterday's 72, saw him miss the cut by two shots and the 40-year-old is now projected to fall outside of the top 60 in the FedEx Cup standings.

Tiger Woods' fitness was the big story of the afternoon, as his hopes of adding the $15 million FedExCup bonus to his Masters success suffered a major blow yesterday when he withdrew injured from the tournament.

It's the first time the American (43) has withdrawn during a tournament since undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

"Due to a mild oblique (external abdominal) strain that led to pain and stiffness, I have to withdraw from the Northern Trust," Woods said in a statement. "I went for treatment early Friday morning, but unfortunately I'm still unable to compete."

He last withdrew during an event at the 2017 Dubai Desert Classic, and his decision came as no surprise after he complained of stiffness at Royal Portrush and again this week where an opening 75 left him struggling to make the cut.

Ranked 28th in the FedExCup standings, Woods will now fall outside the top 30 who qualify for the Tour Championship in Atlanta and will wait until Tuesday before deciding if he is fit enough to play in next week's penultimate playoff event, the BMW Championship at Medinah in Chicago.

At the weather-delayed ASI Scottish Ladies Open, Leona Maguire shot a level-par 71 and Stephanie Meadow a 76 to lie outside the projected level-par cut mark on two-over and seven-over respectively as Moriya Jutanugarn shot 66 to lead in the clubhouse on 12-under.

But there was better news for the Irish in the low-scoring Made in Denmark Challenge, where Tramore's Robin Dawson goes into today's final round just two shots behind a quintet of leaders.

Seeking his maiden professional win, the Portmarnock Links touring professional is tied for ninth on 15-under after firing a six-under 66 at Silkeborg Ry, where the cut fell at a season's low six-under, leaving West Waterford's Gary Hurley a shot outside the mark.

Finland's Roope Kakko, England's Matthew Jordan, Scotland's Calum Hill, Swede Joel Sjoholm and England's Richard Bland lead on 17-under with Castleknock's David Carey joint 52nd on nine-under after a 71.

Meanwhile, Ireland's amateur women suffered a double disappointment at the hands of England in the weather-affected Girls' and Women's Home Internationals at Downfield in Scotland.

The threat of thunderstorms forced organisers to play the singles first with a two-tee start and wait and see if the foursomes would be possible.

But a storm delay forced them to scrap the alternate shot matches and England came out on top, beating Ireland 3.5-2.5 in the Women's event and drawing the Girls' decider 2.5-2.5 to edge out Ireland after a count-back.

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