Paul McGinley crashed to a car-wreck third round performance at windy Wentworth to see his hopes of becoming the first Irish winner of the BMW PGA Championship for 50 years career off track at windy Wentworth.
The dapper Dubliner bogeyed the par five 18th to slither to a nightmare, seven-over par 79 as a stiff northeast wind made life hell for the late starters.
When he assessed the storm damage at the end of a harrowing afternoon, the 41-year-old Irish star was five shots adrift of leader Robert Karlsson of Sweden, who birdied the last two holes for a brilliant two-under par 70 and a four stroke lead from Oliver Wilson (73) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (72) on 11 under par.
McGinley fell into a three way tie for fourth with Jyoti Randhawa of India and Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik on six under par after a round that he will quickly want to forget.
Four strokes clear Karlsson and England’s Miles Tunnicliff starting the day, McGinley found himself chasing after just five holes when he double bogeyed the first and then bogeyed the third and fifth as wind turned the 7,320 yard West Course into a tough test.
The three-time Ryder Cup hero had missed just four fairways in two rounds and putted brilliantly in carding a record 13-under par 36-hole total thanks to rounds of 65 and 66.
But his unerring accuracy off the tee and magical putting touch deserted him as he missed his first three fairways and three putted twice from just off the green to drop four strokes to par in the first five holes.
He started by bunkering his two-iron tee shot at the first and after leaving his approach just short of the green, he chipped through the back of the green and knocked his par putt six feet past the hole, missing the one back.
Karlsson had three putted for bogey there but soon found himself just one behind after a two-stroke swing at the tough third, where McGinley drove into the left rough and bogeyed as the Swede rammed home an 18 footer for birdie.
A Karlsson birdie to McGinley’s par at the 552-yard fourth left the pair tied on ten-under par before three putts from the back of the 212-yard fifth left the Dubliner one stroke behind the Swede and Dane Soren Kjeldsen, who eventually slumped to a 76 that left him on four under par.
Not even the respite of a birdie at the sixth could brighten the Dubliner’s day and while he turned for home one clear of Karlsson 10 under par, his title hopes suffered on the back nine as almost the entire field struggled in the blustery conditions.
Karlsson eagled the par-five 12th from 15 feet to go one clear of McGinley on 11-under par and soon found himself three ahead as the Irish battler bogeyed the 13th and par three 14th to slip to five over par for the day.
He bogeyed the 16th as well to fall two behind and the gap was three when Karlsson birdied the par five 17th from 25 feet.
After carding a superb 66 on Friday to move into a share of eighth place, Damien McGrane slithered to 77 that left him tied with his room-mate Peter Lawrie on one under par
Indeed, if McGinley was under any illusions about the task facing him, he only had to head down the 18th green for a chat with his fellow Dubliner, who carded a two-under par 70 to sneak into red figures after 54 holes.
Out in the sixth group of the morning, when the greens were still on the receptive side, the Castleknock touring professional had no hesitation in describing the finishing stretch as brutal.
“It was very tough out there,” said Lawrie, who missed just two fairways all day. “there could be a few cricket scores out there today. There are no hiding spots. And that finish coming in is brutal.”
A massive 12 shots behind McGinley starting the day, Ulsterman Graeme McDowell bunkered his tee shot at the first and watched in horror as his nine-iron tee shot spun back down the steep slope at the par-three second for a bogey-bogey start.
“It was blowy out there, pretty difficult and I made a couple of mistakes early on,” said McDowell who had just one birdie in 75 to slip to two-over par.
Still in position to earn his first Ryder Cup cap, McDowell was hoping for a big cheque after missing the cut in last week’s Irish Open at Adare Manor but confessed that he is letting chances slip away.
“These are big money weeks,” McDowell said. “And these are missed opportunities. I am not too unhappy with my game, but I have made a few small mistakes that have been costly.”