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Kang claims Korea title after rules rumpus

Kang Sung-hoonCHEONAN, Korea, Oct 20 - Kang Sung-hoon won the Kolon Korea Open in stunning circumstances on Sunday after overnight leader Kim Hyung-tae was penalised two shots just as he appeared to be marching to victory.

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 -- a par-three island green -- 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).

It was a bizarre ending to a brutally tough tournament at the 6,582-metre (7,198-yard) Woo Jeong Hills Country Club course, near Cheonan, south of the capital, but Kang walks away with 300 million won (around U.S. $280,000) from the one billion won purse.

The 26-year-old, who had an unsuccessful year on the U.S. PGA Tour in 2011 after gaining his card through Q-School, is clearly playing good golf at the moment having won the CJ Invitational on the Korean domestic tour last weekend.

Still, he 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.

McIlroy had left the course before the rules rumpus started, having rued another round of missed opportunities.

"I could have shot anything, absolutely anything," he said.

"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 hasn't won since changing club manufacturer at the end of a brilliant 2012, but said he was happy with the way his game was going.

"I hit the ball really well off the tee and my iron play was very solid as well," he said. "I feel like my game is in good shape going into the next few weeks, and that's a good thing."

OneAsia heads Down Under next for the Australian PGA Championship, presented by Coca-Cola, at RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast from November 7-10.
 

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