Darren Clarke’s Open dream ended when he got put on the clock and frittered away another chance to lift the Claret Jug.
But he refuesed to get ticked off and use that as an excuse for a five over 76 that left him nine shots behind leader and stablemate Lee Westwood on six over.
The 2011 champion went out in one-over but he (and playing partner Jordan Spieth) then got put on the clock in the 12th and dropped four shots in his next three holes for a 76 that left him out of contention.
Clarke said: “We got told on the 12th that we were out of position, though we hadn’t seen the group behind all day. We both proceeded to make a couple of double-bogeys and bogeys [Spieth doubled the 13th] while we tried to catch-up.
“We should know better as professional golfers. It didn’t feel that slow out there today but obviously if we’re out of position it’s something …
“We were just told to speed up. I don’t know if it affected me or not. It would be lovely to have an excuse but I am not that foolish
“Slow play is a problem and the only thing that is going to work is giving shots out. You can fine people all you want but shots are the only thing that are going to make any difference and the sooner they bring that rule in, the better.”
As for his round, he added: “It’s frustrating. I had my chances but didn’t hole anything all day. It’s ifs and buts but dropping four shots in those three holes took me out of the tournament but such is links golf.
“On a day like this, everyone is going to miss greens and are going to have to make some up and downs and I didn’t make any putts at all. I had enough chances and didn’t take them.
“I’m delighted my name’s on the Claret Jug, make no mistake, but I’d have loved to have given myself a chance to go out there tomorrow and do it again.
“Unfortunately, after a couple of bad shots at the wrong time and not making anything, I’ve paid the penalty but so be it.”
Clarke looked like he had got off to the perfect start when he drove into the right rough at the first but hit a sensational second to just four feet.
However, he missed the putt, failed with three good chances at the next three holes and then bogeyed the par-five fifth after a poor drive and a bunkered third.
He said: “I played nicely at the start. I’d four real good birdie chances and didn’t make any of them. Then I made a mistake at five, had chances at six and seven and eight, didn’t make any of those. Then hit it in a bunker and made five on nine. I never really got anything going.”
His Open hopes then evaporated over the tough closing stretch as he dropped four shots in the space of three holes with the referee poised with his stopwatch.
On the clock from the 12th, he bogeyed the 13th, double bogeyed the 14th and bogeyed the 15th to slip out of contention.
“I made a couple of poorish swings on 13 and then on the 14th I hit it four yards off the fairway and it was unplayable,” Clarke said.
“I had to take a penalty drop and it was 50 yards further back. Then I three-putted the next from 12 feet trying to get the first one in for birdie.”
Asked about his chances of a high finish, he joked: “I don’t know. I’ll just go and play and see if I can find a bigger hole or something.”
As for pal Westwood, he said: “Of course he can do it. He’s been there so many times before and is due a couple of good bounces at the right time. He’s obviously playing really well and it’s going to be really tough tomorrow those last few holes if the wind blows the way it is.
“Any winner will deserve it but he’s going to have to work hard for it.”