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McIlroy in contention at The Northern Trust

McIlroy in contention at The Northern Trust
© Reuters
The four-time major champion is three shots adrift of halfway leader Dustin Johnson.

Rory McIlroy had a two-shot penalty rescinded at The Northern Trust after it was determined he had not intended to improve his lie in a bunker.

McIlroy was punished on the course after finding the bunker on the par three 14th at Liberty National.

The Northern Irishman bent down to remove what he thought was a small stone behind his ball but, when he touched it, McIlroy realised it was just a clump of sand.

McIlroy told rules officials what he had done, and he was originally given a two-shot penalty as it was considered he could have tested the surface.

But PGA Tour rules officials later reversed the decision, and McIlroy eventually carded a three-under-par 68 to leave him tied for seventh and three shots adrift of halfway leader Dustin Johnson.

"It's such a grey area and it came down to me," McIlroy said after his round, adding that he had accepted a two-stroke penalty on the New Jersey course because he did not want to hold up play.

"I thought it was a rock; it wasn't. I moved my hand away and then I was like, I don't know if I've done anything wrong here.

"The reason I called someone over is I don't want anything on my conscience, either.

"I feel like I play the game with integrity and I'm comfortable saying that I didn't improve anything."

He alerted a rules official and was given a two-shot penalty.

He was three back of the lead at the time of the penalty. pic.twitter.com/Ayp8zWw9Ei

— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 9, 2019

Johnson has a one-shot lead over Jordan Spieth at the first regular post-season FedEx Cup event.

Abraham Ancer, Troy Merritt, Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm are a further shot back.

Englishman Justin Rose and McIlroy are among a group of five players on nine under.

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