By Brian Keogh
Paul McGinley branded himself a "clown" after a rules boob cost him a vital shot at the Open.
The Dubliner ran up a double bogey six at the third when he failed to ask an official for free relief from a sprinkler on his line.
In the end he fired a disappointing four-over par 75 to drop from second overnight to joint 13th with Padraig Harrington on level par.
And he was incensed with himself later when he discovered that he was entitled to relief under R&A Rules - the opposite to the norm on the European Tour.
He groaned: "I am some clown. That was stupid of me. I didn't ask. It is not a European Tour rule and I had rule officials there as well - an Irish lady from Roscrea. I should have know better."
McGinley, 40, hit the sprinkler with his par putt from just off the green and ended up three-putting for a six when he ball pulled up six feet short.
He raged: "That cost me a shot. I didn't have a difficult putt but the ball jumped up six inches when I hit the corner of the sprinkler.
"I left myself with a horrendous third putt, a big three inch breaker left to right down the hill from about six feet.
"My pitch mark was in the way as well about six inches off the green but I knew I couldn't repair that.
"You would think I'd know at this stage. That is stupid of me. Inexcusable. When I have a rules official there 10 yards away. I just presumed I wasn't entitled to relief.
"I didn't ask the lady and it is my fault. I am thinking European Tour rules and I am being very careful this week not to pick stones from bunkers as we do on the European Tour. The onus is on the player and it is my fault."
But McGinley also took a swipe at officialdom for the different codes used by golf's governing bodies in big championships.
Phil Mickelson also had a confusing ruling on the second when he took relief from a plugged lie in the rough - legal on the PGA Tour but not in the Open.
He was later forced to replace the ball and had to take a drop for an unplayable lie.
McGinley added: "It is stupid. Ridiculous. While the USGA has a set of rules, the R&A has a set of rules and the European Tour has a set of rules.
"Why haven't they all got the same set of rules around the world - it is the same game of golf.
"They say it slows up play every time you ask for a ruling. But if you save yourself one shot... It was an important time of the round."
McGinley got off to a nigthmare start by three-putting the first and then dropping those two shots at the third.
He birdied the fourth to stop the rot but took six at the par five sixth and then bogeyed the 10th to go four over for the day.
While he birdied the 11th, he duffed a pitch at the par five 14th to drop back to level again.
But he still believes he is well in the mix for the weekend after parring the tough closing holes.
He said: "Three sixes on the card today. Give me fours and I would have had a 69 and I am leading the tournament.
"But to shoot 75 with three sixes was still a decent effort. I am not hugely disappointed. I didn't putt as well as I did yesterday but that's no surprise. I am not out of the ball game.
"I hit the ball just as well today as I did yesterday. I hit a lot of quality shots over those last few holes in that cold wind. It is freezing now at 8.30 at night.
"I am hitting two iron into 15 and two iron into 16 and driver three wood into 18. There is a lot of good ball striking there and when that's there I feel I can score.
"I am just six off the lead and only three shots off third place. I am right in the mix. We have got very bad weather coming in tomorrow."