Rory McIlroy lamented his lack of luck on the greens but walked away with $48,492, a big appearace fee and a boost to his confidence after grabbing a share of second place in a controversial Kolon Korea Open.
The world No 6 closed with a four under 67 to finish in a five-way log-jam for second place on three under, just one strokes behind eventual winner Kang Sung-Hoon at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club near Seoul.
Kang did not even feel like celebrating his win after his close friend, overnight leader Kim Hyung-tae (77), was controversially penalised two shots for grounding his club in a hazard just as he appeared to be marching to victory.
“I could have shot anything, absolutely anything,” said McIlroy who made birdies at the fourth, sixth, 11th and 12th before following a bogey at the 16th with a birdie at the next for his 67.
“I only missed two greens and had so many chances, but it was like the story of yesterday - I just didn’t hole enough putts.
“I created so many more chances today that it could have been 61, 62. It just wasn’t to be. I didn’t birdie any of the par fives which was disappointing.”
Speaking before the rules controversy came to light and off the premises by the time an 80-minute row broke out between rules officials and the protagonists, McIlroy added: “It was tough. I felt like it could have been so much lower the last couple of days, yet I’m only, what, three off the leader? A little frustrating, but I’m happy with how I hit it.
“I hit the ball really well off the tee and my iron play was very solid as well. I feel like my game is in good shape going into the next few weeks, and that’s a good thing.”
Putting was tricky on slopey greens and while McIlroy holed little, he reckons his play from tee to green bodes well for his last four events of the year.
Still winless in 2013, he said: “Some of the pin positions are on slopes and it’s tough. It’s very, very difficult to trust the line you’re hitting it on.
“But if I keep giving myself all those birdie chances, sooner or later I’m going to start holing a few. I’ll work on my putting over the next couple of days and get ready for [the BMW Masters and HSBC Champions in] Shanghai.”
The tournament was marred by a bizarre rules controversy that left eventual winner Kang with a hollow feeling inside.
According to the OneAsia Tour:
Kim stood on the 17th tee with an apparent two-shot lead when he was approached by a rules official who informed him and playing partner Hong Soon-sang that they had both grounded a club in an area deemed to be a hazard on the 13th, and what they thought were fours were actually sixes.
The pair finished their round, but before signing their scorecards they returned to the 13th and spent nearly two hours in deep discussion with officials, who also repeatedly consulted TV footage of the incident.
Kim argued he had never grounded his club, but was eventually persuaded to sign for a six by the Korean Golf Association rules committee, who had voted 5-3 against him.
He was adjudged to have violated rule 13.4, which deals with prohibited actions when a ball is in a hazard.
The resulting 77 left him at three under for a share of second place, one shot behind champion Kang but alongside two-time Major winner Rory McIlroy (67), Lee Sang-hee (68), Mo Joong-kyung (72) and amateur Lee Chang-woo (69).”
Kang earned US$277,628 but the 26-year-old, who had an unsuccessful year on the U.S. PGA Tour in 2011 after gaining his card through Q-School, said he felt terrible for Kim and had mixed feelings about his victory.
“I’m a really good friend of his so at the moment it doesn’t feel great. Even though I won the tournament, I just feel really sorry for him. I was actually out there to celebrate for him, but … I don’t know … I don’t know what to say. It’s horrible.”
A disconsolate Kim left the course immediately after prize giving.
Kolon Korea Open, Woo Jeong Hills Country Club (7,198 yards, Par 71, *denotes amateur)
280 - KANG Sung-hoon (KOR) 68-70-73-69.
281 - Rory McILROY (NIR) 70-69-75-67, LEE Sang-hee (KOR) 72-69-72-68, LEE Chang-woo (am, KOR) 73-71-68-69, MO Joong-kyung (KOR) 72-69-68-72, KIM Hyung-tae 404 (KOR) 72-66-66-77.
282 - HAM Jeong-woo (am, KOR) 69-74-72-67, RYU Hyun-woo (KOR) 69-72-70-71.
283 - JANG Ik-jae (KOR) 67-72-76-68, MAENG Dong-seop (KOR) 70-70-71-72, PARK Il-hwan (KOR) 77-68-66-72, KANG Ji-man (KOR) 71-71-69-72.
284 - KIM Woo-hyun (KOR) 77-69-72-66, PARK Jae-kyung (KOR) 71-72-70-71, HONG Soon-sang (KOR) 69-68-71-76.
285 - PARK Sang-hyun (KOR) 74-73-70-68, KIM Seung-hyuk (KOR) 70-74-72-69.
286 - KANG Kyung-nam (KOR) 73-75-70-68, CHOI Joon-woo (KOR) 72-71-72-71.
287 - YOON Jung-ho (KOR) 68-73-75-71.
288 - LEE Soo-min (am, KOR) 72-70-75-71, HWANG In-choon (KOR) 70-68-77-73, KIM Geon-ha (KOR) 74-68-73-73.
289 - Richard T LEE (CAN) 71-74-72-72.
290 - PARK Ju-hyuk (KOR) 70-74-75-71, HAN Min-kyu (KOR) 68-74-75-73, Ryan YIP (CAN) 69-74-73-74, Simon YATES (SCO) 70-75-71-74, YU Gyoung-yoon (KOR) 71-68-75-76.
291 - Lucas LEE (BRA) 71-75-73-72, KIM Dae-sub (KOR) 69-73-68-81.
292 - KIM Dae-hyun (KOR) 72-73-75-72.
293 - PARK Sung-kug (KOR) 74-74-72-73, Rhein GIBSON (AUS) 75-73-72-73, BANG Doo-hwan (KOR) 78-70-72-73.
294 - KWON Sung-yeol (KOR) 69-76-74-75, LEE Ki-sang (KOR) 72-75-71-76, SUK Jong-yul (KOR) 73-72-71-78.
295 - LEE Jung-hwan (KOR) 75-72-74-74, BYUN Jin-jae (KOR) 73-75-70-77, Eric MINA (USA) 68-75-74-78.
296 - PARK Hyo-won (KOR) 74-73-78-71, MOON Kyong-jun (KOR) 73-74-74-75, Ryan CARTER (USA) 74-71-74-77, PARK Hyun-bin (KOR) 71-73-74-78.
297 - HONG Chang-kyu (USA) 72-76-75-74, SONG Young-han (KOR) 74-74-72-77.
298 - SHIN Yong-jin (KOR) 77-71-74-76, LEE Dae-jun (KOR) 75-72-74-77.
299 - KIM Bong-sub (KOR) 74-74-78-73, SONG Jin-oh (KOR) 75-72-79-73, KIM Wi-joong (KOR) 75-72-77-75, KIM Seng Yong (KOR) 74-74-75-76, Michael LONG (NZL) 72-70-80-77.
300 - KIM Do-hoon 753 (KOR) 72-76-76-76, JUNG Ji-ho (KOR) 72-74-71-83.
302 - HUR In-hoi (KOR) 71-75-78-78.
305 - PARK Sang-eon (KOR) 72-75-77-81.
306 - HAN Seong-man (KOR) 70-76-76-84.
307 - KIM Woo-chan (KOR) 77-70-77-83.