Rory McIlroy nearly atoned for a disappointing third-round 75 with a closing 67 that pushed him into a tie for second place in the Kolon Korea Open – which Sung-hoon Kang won by a shot after a two-stroke penalty dropped third-round leader Hyung-tae Kim from the lead.
McIlroy, sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking, said his game tee-to-green was in top form but he struggled to convert.
“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,” McIlroy said. “I created so many more chances today that it could have been 61, 62. It just wasn’t to be.”
Even the Saturday struggles left McIlroy with something to be pleased about, he said, which isn’t uncommon for the Northern Irishman who often maintains a positive outlook.
“I felt like it could have been so much lower the last couple of days, yet I’m only, what, three off the leader?” McIlroy said before Kim’s penalty was assessed post-round. “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.
“. . . 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 Shanghai.”
Kim, meanwhile, had led by two shots when he was told on the 17th tee that he faced a two-stroke penalty for grounding a club in a hazard area on the 13th hole – giving him double-bogey there instead of par. Kim bogeyed the 17th and parred the last, then headed with officials back to the 13th for a debate that lasted two hours.
The Korean Golf Association rules committee voted 5-3 to penalize Kim, who eventually signed for the double bogey and a 77 that dropped him into the tie for second alongside McIlroy and three others.
With three birdies on the final five holes, Kang won his second straight event in Korea; a week earlier he had won the CJ Invitational on the Korean domestic tour. But Kang said he was left with bittersweet emotions.
“I’m a really good friend of him 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.”
– OneAsia Tour contributed