A wayward tee shot at Harding Park led to a rare rules incident and a wonderful act of sportsmanship from the four-time major champion

With far too many stories of players trying to find loopholes in the Rules of Golf lately – you’re thinking about Bryson DeChambeau, aren’t you? – step forward Rory McIlroy to restore a bit of faith after a bizarre incident at the PGA Championship.

After a nice birdie at the opening hole and a comfortable par at the 2nd, McIlroy pushed his tee shot at the par-3 3rd so far right it cleared the greenside bunker and buried deep in the rough.

As McIlroy and a handful of course marshals and media types attempted to find his TaylorMade TP5, one of the search party accidentally stood on it.

As a result, the two-time PGA champion was entitled to replace his ball without penalty, but having done this he then sportingly pushed his ball further into the thick grass.

Why? We’ll let him explain.

“I just wouldn’t have felt comfortable,” he said. “I placed it, and the rule is try to replicate the lie. No one really knew what the lie was, but if everyone is going around looking for it, it obviously wasn’t too good. So I placed it, I was like, that just doesn’t look right to me. So I just placed it down a little bit.”

McIlroy pitched to just inside 20 feet and two-putted for a bogey. But the Northern Irishman is at peace with his decision.

“At the end of the day, golf is a game of integrity and I never try to get away with anything out there,” he said. “I’d rather be on the wrong end of the rules rather than on the right end because as golfers, that’s just what we believe.

“I would have felt pretty wrong if I had of taken a lie that was maybe a little better than what it was previously.”

And it looked like the golfing gods had rewarded McIlroy for his honesty when he rolled in four straight birdies from the 7th, only to give three of those back with a triple-bogey at 12 after a pulled drive and a three-putt from seven feet.

McIlroy goes into the weekend seven shots off leader Haotong Li.

Why was McIlroy allowed to replace his ball?

It’s covered under Rule 7.4, “Ball Accidentally Moved in Trying to Find or Identify It”.

It reads: “There is no penalty if the player’s ball is accidentally moved by the player, opponent or anyone else while trying to find or identify it.

“If this happens, the ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated).”

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