McIlroy happy he did nothing wrong


Rory McIlroy is happy he did nothing wrong after a "sand storm" incident on Friday threatened to scupper his dream week at the Masters.

The Ulsterman, 19, explained that at no stage did he kick the sand in the bunker at the 18th after he had failed to get out at the first attempt.

After carding his first sub-par round at Augusta - a one-under par 71 that left him on level par - he explained exactly what happened in the hours after he signed his card.

He said: "I played my bunker shot, didn’t get it out of the bunker. Played my next shot over the green and three putted for a seven. I didn’t even think about what I did until Fred Ridley from Augusta rang me to tell me what had happened and what he had seen on tape. That was about 6.30.

"They called me and asked if I wanted to see the tape before they made a decision and I said ‘No because I am confident I haven’t done anything wrong.’

I didn’t feel I had done anything wrong or anything to violate the rules so I  was very certain no action would be taken.

"They rang me back about later and said to me it would be in my best interests to come and see the tape. That was about half past eight. We reviewed the tape for about five or ten minutes and I said to them I hit my shot and it was a natural instinct for me after I have hit a bunker shot to smooth out my footprints. If you look at any bunker shot I play I do that.

"The big thing was testing the conditions of the sand. The definition is kicking it. I didn’t kick it. It was more of a sweep and I didn’t feel I did anything wrong.

"The reason it took so long is that I left the property and I declined first time to come back. Then they said you really have to look at it so I came back. I thought it was handled very well."

McIlroy confessed that he was surprised by all the fuss the incident had caused.

He said: "Definitely. It is over and done with. I am concentrating on playing as well as possible and finishing as high up in this field as I can.

"Everyone is looking for a story. It was probably a bit of a fuss made of it there shouldn’t have been but I will know in future not to smooth the sand so vigorously.

"It wasn’t a tantrum.  In the rules it says a kick and a kick is when you take your foot out of the sand and back in. A smoothing of the sand is what I did. I might have done it a little vigorously but that was my intent, it wasn’t my intent to test the sand."

McIlroy's goal now is to finish in the top 16 and ensure his place in the field next year, regardless of his world ranking.

Asked if the "sand storm" had taken any of the gloss of his first visit to the Masters, he said: "No it has actually made it better as I thought Augusta National and the Championship Committee handled it very well. I was very pleased with the way it was dealt with. It took a little tarnish off."

As for his round, McIlroy began with a birdie at the par-five second, where he got up and down from sand without smoothing any footprints - a practice he plans to make permanent.

He said: "I am not going to make the mistake again and put myself in that position. I know I didn’t do anything wrong but I don’t want to be in that position again."

McIlroy then got up and down from sand at the fourth before chipping dead from a difficult spot right of the sixth.

He was in more sand at the seventh but missed a short par putt there before converting a nine foot chance at the par-five eighth.

And after pars at the 10th and 11th he got up and down again from sand at the par-three 12th, where his approach spun back into the bunker.

In trees on the right of the 13th, he lost his footing in the pine straw as he attempted to cut a five-wood onto the green. The ball flew high and came down on the grass bridge over Rae's Creek, from where he took three to get down for his par.

After finishing with nine straight pars on the back nine, he said: "I played very solidly and only had one bogey out there in tricky conditions. Couple of birdies and a sub par round was nice today and will hopefully move me up a few spots."

Hoping to finish with a round in the 60s, he added: "I just want to play the way I have played. I scrambled well today and  I was happy with that."