Graeme McDowell completed an Ulster nightmare on the dreaded Road Hole as a third round 76 put paid to his hopes of back-to-back major wins.
The US Open champion was fighting a losing battle with the Old Course before he tangled with the left rough at the 17th and racked up a double bogey six.
With Rory McIlroy also taking six and Darren Clarke racking up a seven, the Ulster trio played the toughest hole on the course in seven over par.
“It was a disappointing day and not what I had in mind,” said McDowell, who reckons the left rough at the 17th is far too penal. “Seventeen is just brutal.
“The R&A have not got much rough out on this golf course but they’ve chosen to let the rough to the left of 17 grow extremely thick.
“Now, I don’t know why they’ve done that. There’s no rough anywhere else on the golf course, so why have they taken one of the most difficult holes on the golf course and thrown some of the heaviest rough on the course just left of it? It’s penal, extremely penal.”
McDowell was three over for the day when he stood on the 17th tee but after tugging his tee shot into the first cut he failed to get back to the fairway at the first attempt and eventually three-putted from the front of the green for his first double bogey of the week.
He closed with a birdie to finish the day tied for 38th on one-under par. But he was less than impressed with the set up at the 17th and the general slowness of the greens.
“They’ve cut a strip of about three yards wide and I was in that today and could barely move it anyway,” McDowell said of the rough left of the 17th. “It’s a great hole but they’re looking for drama and numbers and they’re certainly going to achieve it.
“It’s a great hole - a wonderful hole - but I think they should be encouraging guys to go for the green from the left rough. It shouldn’t be as penal. It doesn’t suit the rest of the golf course.”
The Portrush star got off to a poor start for the third day in a row, dropping shots at the second and fourth to slip back to three under par for the championship.
He felt he was about to bounce back when he birdied the ninth but the wheels came off on the back nine and as the crowds streamed home, he didn’t have enough adrenaline to keep going.
“I just didn’t hole the momentum putts at all today,” he said. “I’ve played the first seven holes badly every day. I really haven’t got myself going at all.
“On Thursday I scrambled a score on the back nine and on Friday I played the back nine well and got a score out of it.
“When I birdied nine, I thought, ‘here we go again’ but I missed a great chance on the 10th, missed a great chance on the 11th and then made bogey from just short of the 12th green, which was just terrible.
“I three-whacked 13 and all of a sudden I’ve turned myself from being in a good position to being in a bad position. When I bogeyed 12 and 13, it knocked the wind out of my sails. I’m definitely not as full of beans as I should be at this stage.
“Then I’m a bit frustrated coming in. I birdied the 14th, hit it in a divot on 16 to make bogey and hit it in the left rough on 17 and make double.”
As for his putting, he confessed that he simply hasn’t putted well enough this week to compete.
“I’ve had about seven three-putts this week,” he said. “You can accept three-putts from about 100 feet because they’re not real three-putts. But I haven’t putted my best this week. I haven’t really capitalized on my chances.”