Darren Clarke kept his head on after a nightmare quadruple bogey eight threatened to wreck his chances of another Open win.
The Dungannon ace, 44, reeled off a hat-trick of birdies from the third to get to within three shots of the lead.
But after taking three shots to escape after plugging his third shot under the lip of a greenside bunker at the sixth, he resisted the temptation to lose his cool and signed for a 71 that left him four shots off the lead on one over par.
Clarke said: “That sort of thing can happen to anybody playing on a links. Thankfully I just forgot about it and moved on.
“I missed my tee shot up in the left rough and did the right thing and laid it up and pulled my wedge three yards and I was plugged against the lip of the bunker and couldn’t get it out.
“I tried to be smart with the next go and left it in there. And then I was sensible with my third go. I was running out of fingers counting how many I was taking at that stage.
“So I made an eight and carried on. What could I do? That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Playing brilliantly from tee to green, Clarke birdied the ninth and 12th to get back to level for the day before shrugging off a bogey at the last after a pulled tee shot found the rough.
He said: “I hit the ball lovely all day and gave myself lots of chances everywhere.
“I hit it close on the first two holes as well and missed two really good chances.
“It was a little bit disappointing to make bogey at the last and overall I’d like to be a few shots better, but it’s not bad.
“My game is not quite where I want to be but I’ve been saying for a while that I’ve been playing alright and it’s close.”
Clarke won The Open at Sandwich two years ago thanks to help from mental guru Dr Bob Rotella.
He has the American mind man helping him again this week but when asked if had thoughts about winning the Claret Jug again, he said: “It’s Friday morning. There’s a long way to go.
“I’m not quite playing the way I want to but I am not that far off.”
Heading for the range, he added with a grin: “I’m off to practice how to hit out of a plugged lie against the lip of a bunker.”
Rotella was on his shoulder.