Darren Clarke blamed an ice cold putter as he carded a bitterly disappointing 77 to kiss his chances of Open glory goodbye at St Andrews.
The Dungannon star, 41, failed to repeat the heroics of the defiant second round 70 he completed after a 6.30am restart to go into the third round with high hopes on four under par.
But his dreams of winning the Claret Jug faded with a poor performance on the greens and ended definitively when he drove out of bounds on the 17th and racked up a morale-crushing, triple bogey seven.
After closing with a birdie at the last that did little to ease his disappointment, Clarke confessed that he simply didn’t putt well enough as he finished the day on one-under par.
“I didn’t play particularly well and putted poorly on top of it,” he said. “Then on 17 I thought my tee shot was good. Obviously not. It was out of bounds when I thought it was perfect. I just got it wrong.
“At that stage I wasn’t trying to mess about and make pars. I wanted to finish with a couple of birdies but c’est la vie.”
Four under par for the championship with three holes of his second still to complete, he bogeyed the 17th after a visit to the Road Hole bunker but birdied the last for a 70 that gave him high hopes of moving into contention.
Set to move home to Portrush later this summer, Clarke refused to blame a early morning alarm clock call for his afternoon woes.
“I was up at twenty past four but that wasn’t a factor in the slightest,” Clarke said. “I don’t do excuses.”
Playing with his close friend Tiger Woods (73) didn’t help as he began with the first of three three-putts at the opening hole.
“Obviously with the way I have been playing, I didn’t want to go out and do that today,” he said. “That was particularly disappointing. But I just didn’t hit it the way I have been hitting it and didn’t putt any good either.”
Proving he hadn’t lost his sense of humour after surviving the high winds that wrecked many scorecards on Friday, he added with a grin: “The weather was too good.”