- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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Rory McIlroy had his best finish since April, but the Kolon Korean Open was marred by a rules controversy that left winner Kang Sung-hoon stunned.
McIlroy shot a 4-under-par 67 and finished tied for second with Kim Hyung-tae, the third-round leader who was assessed a two-stroke penalty just as he appeared on the verge of victory.
Kim was on the 17th tee when, leading by two strokes, when rules officials approached him and playing partner Hoon Soon-sang and informed them they had grounded their clubs on the 13th hole in an area deemed to be a hazard.
Their scores of 4 became 6s and before signing their cards they returned to the 13th hole where for two hours they discussed the situation with officials, who viewed television footage of the incident.
According to the OneAsia Tour, Kim argued that he never grounded his club; he was eventually persuaded to sign his card by the Korean Golf Association Rules committee, which was not unanimous in its findings: it voted 5-3 against Kim.
The resulting 73 left Kim at 3 under par, one stroke behind winner Kang, and in a tie with McIlroy and three others.
Kang, 26, won the CJ Invitational last week on the Korean domestic tour but said he had mixed feelings about his victory.
"I'm a really good friend of his (Kim) so at the moment it doesn't feel great,'' Kang said according to the OneAsia Tour. "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.''
According to the OneAsia Tour, Kim left the course immediately after the trophy presentation.
McIlroy, too, had left before the rules issue surfaced, and bemoaned a day of missed opportunities.
"I could have shot anything, absolutely anything,'' said McIlroy, whose tie for second is his best since he finished second at the Valero Texas Open the week prior to the Masters. "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 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.'' McIlroy heads to China for the BMW Masters, a European Tour event in Shanghai.
That is followed by another tournament in the same city, the WGC-HSBC Championship, which is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and European Tour. It will be McIlroy's first start of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season.