Rory McIlroy lost his putting touch, his temper and his chance to win The Open on a blustery afternoon at Royal Troon.
The world No 4 missed two short par putts early on and never raised a gallop after that, smashing the head off his three-wood in anger and frustration at the 16th as he signed for a two over 73 that leaves him hopelessly adrift of the leaders on level par.
It was ironic that he should break a three wood — the same club he used to deliver the killer blow in the Irish Open on the 16th at The K Club. But that's the way this man's career goes, highs and lows in equal measure. When all was said and done, it was another day to forget for the four-time major winner, who had 30 putts for the second day running.
Eight off the pace starting the day, he needed a fast start but bogeyed the first by three putting from the apron and then took four to get down from just short of the third, three-putting from 15 feet.
Both par putts were from inside three feet and having missed two from a similar distance on Friday, McIlroy blamed the windy conditions rather than any problems with his stroke.
Did he block them, perhaps?
“You tell me,” he said testily.
It was a day to forget all round for the 27-year old, who blamed a slow start for another average day rather than the slow greens that were left uncut as high winds were forecast.
“It was tough,” he said. “I think I’ve been saying all week that you need to get off to a good start on this golf course, and you need to be under par early, and I wasn't able to do that.
“I missed a couple of the short ones, as you said, on 1 and 3. But I knew I had some chances coming up.
“I birdied 4 and birdied 6. Had a couple of other chances on the front nine. Just to be over par on the front was tough because you can't really expect to pick up too many shots on the back nine because of how tough it is playing.
“Actually felt like I played okay on the back nine. Held it together quite well. I obviously had the bogey on 15, and actually had a decent chance on 16 to make birdie.
“But, yeah, it was one of those days that was a tough day. I just wish I had gotten off to a better start. Maybe it would have given me a little bit more of a cushion going into the back nine.”
Asked about his club throw at the 16th when he carved his approach right of the barriers — the head flew off the club as he slammed it into the turf in front of him — he said: “The club head came loose on it earlier on the week. I had to get the head re-glued. So it was probably partly to do with that and partly the throw as well.
“I’ll get it reshafted tonight. The truck's here, so I'll have it reshafted, and all will be well in the morning.”
Asked if his reaction was frustration with the shot or that round or the result of a poor week, he said: “I think it was just I let one go right on the previous hole, the 3-iron, and I did the exact same thing there.
“So it was basically just a bad swing. No one likes to make the same mistake twice, and that's basically what happened.”
While he’s changed his putting grip already this year, McIlroy refused to blame any technical issues for his putting.
“When you're putting in 25-mile-an-hour winds and the greens are a lot slower than you're used to, these things can happen,” he said.
“I was watching a bit of the golf this morning and I saw a few guys miss a couple of the short putts and it can happen.
“When they don't cut the greens or roll the greens, they can get a little bit, not bumpy, they're decent surfaces, but the two putts that I missed early on, I just wasn't comfortable over them.
“I sort of read them, and then I'm thinking, do you factor the wind in, do you not? So I was just a little bit indecisive over them, so I missed them.”
Backing the R&A’s decision not to cut or roll the greens as the right one, he said: “Obviously you want to get the round completed and done. I think they made the right call.”
His plan today is to try and make a fast start and finish well.
“It looks like, depending on what happens on the back nine, Henrik and Phil are sort of playing their own tournament right now. So go out and try to shoot a good score and try to finish as high as I possibly can.”