From Brian Keogh at Oakmont
Padraig Harrington's US Open hopes lay in tatters after four holes from hell left him battling to make the cut at Oakmont
The Dubliner dropped NINE shots in the space of four horror holes from the ninth to soar to 14 over par and 11 over for his round.
World No 1 Tiger Woods was also toiling to keep pace with clubhouse leaders Justin Rose and Aaron Baddeley at the punishing Pittsburgh track as he fell to four over par through 11 holes.
But there was a brilliant performance from Graeme McDowell as he sat just five adrift of leader Angel Cabrera on four over with four to play.
While Rose carded a second successive one over par 71 and Aussie Baddeley an even par 70 to sit safely in the house on two over par, Harrington looked almost certain to miss the cut as he followed a triple bogey seven at the ninth with a bogey at the 10th, double bogey six at the 11th and a triple bogey eight at the par-five 12th.
At 14 over par, he was five shots outside the projected cut mark of nine over for the top 60 and all those within ten shots of the lead.
Harrington was struggling after bogeys at the second and sixth before disaster struck at the ninth.
The Dubliner pulled his tee shot into a drain and then compounded his mistake in horrendous fashion.
After failing to get out of trouble with his first attempt, he squirted his third shot across the fairway into more rough and then missed the green with his fourth.
His delicate chip finished just three feet away but he missed the putt and had to work hard his seven before dropping another shot at the next.
A double bogey at the 11th, where he three putted from 40 feet, killed his hopes and he then definitively self-destructed with a triple bogey at the par-five 12th.
McDowell was tied for 12th on five over par and just two over for the day as as he steadied the ship after three successive bogey in the middle of the front nine with seven successive pars and a birdie at the 14th.
Overnight leader Nick Dougherty as he fell back from two under to three over par through 13 holes.
By that stage only leader Angel Cabrera was the only player in red figures as he played his first 11 holes in level par to lead on one under from David Toms.
Tied for 34th starting the day, Harrington was up to 18th place before setting off as England’s Paul Casey was the only man among the early starters to break par with a sensational four under par 66.
Harrington knew what he was letting himself in for as he watched scores soar by taking in a little TV coverage before the start.
And the scene was set for him in dramatic style at the opening hole with first McDowell and then Chris DiMarco giving the crowd plenty to cheer about.
McDowell was first to strike, launching a high approach which stopped dead at the front on the green before rolling in a sensational 75 foot putt for an opening birdie.
Then DiMarco carded an amazing birdie three in the group behind, splashing out of the fairway bunker on the left before holing his downhill third shot form 150 yards to a massive roar.
McDowell had complained on Thursday that the poor practice putting green and his late arrival in Pittsburgh had left him playing catch-up in his bid to master the greens.
After taking 36 putt to finish third last in the putting charts, he said: “I have never felt so uncomfortable on a putting surface in my life as I do out there.
“It doesn't matter if you are 10 feet, 20 feet or 50 feet away - they are just awful. They are scary. They are very scary.”
That trend looked certain to change after his putt at the first, but he soon hit trouble on a fast-drying course in a stiff afternoon breeze.
Three bogeys in the row from the fourth saw him balloon from the top 10 to 27th in the space of sixty minutes.
At the par-five fourth, the Portrush man just missed the green but found heavy rough near the bunkers and then hacked his third shot no more than a foot.
His tricky pitch then spun back off the green and he took two more to get down to drop his first shot of the day.
Missed greens at the next two holes cost him two more shots before he parred his way to the turn to share 25th place on five over par.
Harrington had yet to make a birdie in the entire tournament as he went to the turn in five over par 40 and then bogeyed the 10th to teeter on the on the cut mark at nine over par.
Only the top 60 and ties, plus all those within ten shots of the leader make the last two rounds.
Struggling with his game from the start, Harrington bogeyed at the second, where he drove into the left rough and another at the short sixth, where he missed a three footer after finding sand left of the green sent him tumbling down the leaderboard.
The Dubliner was forced to hole a 15 footer for par at the tough seventh but disaster struck at the ninth when he pulled his tee shot into that hazard and kissed his title hopes goodbye.