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Rory McIlroy penalized two strokes for improper drop at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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Bogey on par-5 seventh turns to triple bogey, signs for 1-under 71 at Spyglass Hill

    Written by Staff

    Rory McIlroy was assessed a two-stroke penalty for an improper drop on the par-5 seventh hole at Spyglass Hill Golf Course, his 16th hole, during the opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

    The penalty turned McIlroy’s bogey into a triple bogey. He signed for a 1-under 71, playing his final four holes in 5-over. In his first round of the 2024 PGA TOUR season, he led at 6-under through 10 holes; he ended the day in the middle of the pack.

    After missing his tee shot left at No. 7, into thick grass under a pine tree, McIlroy considered chipping out before opting for relief. He took an unplayable lie, but then erred in dropping slightly to the right of his direct line. From 2019 until a Rules of Golf change in 2023, dropping within a club length of the direct line was allowed; now, a player is required to drop on the direct line. McIlroy was notified of the penalty in the scoring trailer; he accepted the penalty before signing his card.

    “So I took an unplayable on 7 and I took it back on-line,” McIlroy said afterward. “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 got a two-stroke penalty there.”

    The penalty and wayward finish – playing his final four holes in 5-over – marred a promising start to the first round of McIlroy’s 2024 PGA TOUR season. After making the turn in 2-under, he took a wildly aggressive line at the dogleg-left, par-5 first hole, threading a gap between a line of trees and a singular, taller try that guarded the fairway. He shared a knowing, wry smile with group members after splitting the fairway, then proceeded to make birdie (his tee shot plugged in the fairway, but he received embedded ball relief.)

    The world No. 2 added birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 5 before running into trouble on his final four holes.

    “When the rules changed in 2023, back-of-the-line relief, you still go back-of-the-line, in line with the flagstick, from where the ball is. However, you have to drop it on that line, and it can roll in any direction, even forward, one club length,” concurred Mark Dusbabek, Senior Director, Lead TV Rules & Video Analyst for the PGA TOUR. “Rory, from that line, dropped one club length to the side, which makes it a wrong place, and it will be a two-stroke penalty.

    “Rory was met in scoring by our chief referee, Stephen Cox, and he totally owned the mistake, very professional about it, and admitted to the Rules mistake … It can drop on the line and roll up to a club length either direction; however, he took the club length off of the line and dropped it in that area, which he thought was a relief area, and it was correct there in 2019, but it changed in 2023.”

    The silver lining for McIlroy: three more rounds, all at Pebble Beach Golf Links, in the no-cut Signature Event on the Monterey Peninsula.

    The winning pro-am team will be crowned after 36 holes (each team playing one round at Pebble Beach and one round at Spyglass Hill); amateurs will not compete during the third and fourth rounds.

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