Everything was working out perfectly for Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi. He had used his third straight round under par on Saturday to get within one of the leader and set up a Sunday showdown with Phil Mickelson (two back of the leader).
McIlroy shot what he thought was a bogey-free 68 that culminated with a birdie on No. 18 to get into the final group on Sunday.
Then it was all sullied by an apparent two-stroke penalty that was assessed to him for a rules violation on the second hole and pushed him to three back of the leader.
Rory McIlroy's score now adjusted from -11 to -9...looks like a two-shot penalty on No. 2. Now trails Lee by 3, bumped from final group.— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) January 18, 2014
The penalty was because he didn't take full relief from a spectator pathway.
Here is the full explanation from European Tour Chief Referee John Paramor:
"(McIlroy) found what he thought to be his nearest point of relief where the ball was outside and when he dropped the ball within a club's length, when he actually stood to the ball, his left foot was standing on or just over the line demarking the area of ground under repair. Therefore he has not taken full relief and he is in breach of the Rule 25/1, the penalty for which is two strokes."
The person who alerted McIlroy of the potential penalty before he signed his scorecard was his playing partner Ricardo Gonzalez's caddie, Dave Renwick.
McIlroy told the BBC he wasn't pleased with the outcome.
"There are some stupid rules in golf, and this is one of them."
He said the drop was actually sort of a disadvantage.
"We went out to see it again and see my divot and it was clear I could not have played my shot with my feet anywhere else. It's unfortunate. If anything it was a disadvantage because I dropped it in a bad lie and did not make birdie."
The violation moved him from 11 under to 9 under for the tournament.