Padraig Harrington carded the first albatross of his career and added three birdies yet still failed to break 70 in the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Despite his spectacular two at the 594-yard, par-five 14th, the world No 19 is eight shots behind leader Francesco Molinari entering the final round in Shanghai and out of the running for his second tournament win on the trot.
The Irish ace holed his 250-yard second shot with a fairway wood to move briefly into third place and to within three shots of the lead on eight-under par. But he disappointingly bogeyed the 16th and 18th to sign for a third successsive two-under 70 that left him tied for eighth place with Korean teenager Noh Yeung-sul on six-under.
Still delighted to record the rarest of birds for the first time in his 15 year pro career, Harrington said: “I’ve never had an albatross before so obviously that was the shot of the day for me. I hit a nice drive down there and had 250 into the wind and I was forced into going for it.
“Normally if you have 250 into the wind over the water you are going to hit it up the middle of the green. But I had too much club to go up the middle, so I had to go up the pin line and hit a nice soft fade in there. It bounced nicely, ran up and the crowd started cheering and I was hoping it was going to go close.”
The Dubliner didn’t manage to see the ball go into the cup but had a good idea when he saw the crowd going wild up by the green.
He said: “Obviously, when they all jumped up - you can never be quite sure in China - but I suspected it had gone in the hole. It was a nice bonus. The bunker just slightly hid it. You could see it bouncing and imagine it running up, but you couldn’t quite see the hole.”
His wonder shot also did wonders for his round as he was just one under for the day after combining bogeys at the first and 12th with birdies at the third, eighth and 11th.
“It was a good boost at that time,” Harrington said. “I had played excellent for the first 11 holes and then got a little bit scrappy and I am disappointed to finish the way I did. I am destined to shoot 70.”
Helped by holing out from 160 yards with seven iron for an eagle two at 13th, Molinari fired a five-under 67 to lead by a shot on 14-under par from world No 1 Lee Westwood, who also shot 67.
England’s Luke Donald, another European Ryder Cup star, is four strokes off the pace after a 68 with Ross Fisher (69), Ernie Els (71) and Richie Ramsay (71) tied for fourth on eight-under.
The South Africa Jaco Van Zyl is alone in seventh place on seven-under after a 72 and with so many players in front of him, Harrington thinks it is asking to much to make up an eight-shot deficit and win the tournament.
“I am too far behind now,” he said. “If I was eight under and finished five behind, you never know. The course is tough enough that mistakes can be made and birdies can be made as well. But seven shots (sic) is a lot of shots and there are seven or eight people in front of me.”
As for his game, Harrington added: “I am happy with where the game is going. I am still making a few mistakes but I am pretty comfortable where those mistakes are coming from. So that’s always a nice sign, when you have a good understanding of what you are doing.”
Rory McIlroy birdied four of his last five holes to card his third successive 71 to move up eight places to tied 17th with Tiger Woods (73) on three under while US Open champion Graeme McDowell also posted a 73 to share 44th place on two over.
McDowell is just over €500,000 behind Germany’s Martin Kaymer in the battle for the Race to Dubai crown but the German could only manage a 74 which dropped him back to tied 27th on one-under.