Rory McIlroy should have won the Abu Dhabi Championship
A tough break but McIlroy looks to be fully "back."
The equation is not a difficult one.
Rory McIlroy lost the Abu Dhabi Championship by one stroke on Sunday. He was penalized two strokes after his round on Saturday for a drop he later called a disadvantage because of the lie he got.
It's pretty easy to come to the conclusion that Rory McIlroy should have won the Abu Dhabi Championship.
This isn't Tiger Woods at the 2013 Masters where we presume he would have done this which would have led to that and so on.
No, this was a clear-cut penalty that McIlroy shouldn't have allowed to happen that was the stark difference between winning and losing.
He took relief on a drop on Saturday, mis-dropped by a few inches, and made par. The double bogey it later got turned into cost him the tournament.
He knew it, too.
"I can’t describe how frustrating it is, and I feel like I should be standing here at 15 under par for the tournament and winning by one. But that’s the way it goes. I played the least shots of anyone this week. So I count it as a moral victory more than anything else."
I'm not saying it's not McIlroy's fault, just that it could have (and probably should have) been a non-issue. I'm also not saying that Pablo Larrazabal didn't deserve to win. They both knew the stakes on Sunday and he took the thing home.
But it's true, McIlroy did take fewer actual strokes than anybody else in the tournament. He talked about how bummed he was about getting the penalty on Saturday.
The rule from Saturday isn't "stupid" like McIlroy said, it's that it so easily could have been avoided and had no bearing on the golf actually being played.
McIlroy didn't pick up a stroke because of the way he took relief and he wouldn't have lost one if he'd been a couple of inches farther back. It was just nothing.
Other than a shame.
It's far different than saying "Phil Mickelson should have won the tournament because he shouldn't have tried to hit a ball right-handed on Sunday." That's probably true but there are more variables, it's less clear what the outcome would have been if he had decided to not hit it right-handed.
McIlroy only made two golf-related gaffes the rest of the week -- a double bogey on Thursday and a bogey on Sunday. Two mistakes in 72 holes of golf. Everything else was par or birdie.
There is good news if you're a McIlroy fan, though. No, he didn't pick up the win but he's playing with as much confidence as he was at the end of 2012.
"It's been a positive week, a really positive start to the season. I feel like I've played really well and I've got a week off now to prepare for Dubai.
"I came in here telling everyone that I'm really happy with my game and done some good work and felt like it was coming together for me at the end of last year. I've continued that on, so I'm really excited for the rest of the season."
There's even more good news than that.
"This is now my third second-placed finish here."
The other two came in 2011 and 2012. What do those years have in common?
McIlroy collected a major championship in each.
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