Pádraig Harrington shot his highest European Tour round for 12 years to fall out of contention in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
But Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne are in position to at least challenge for one of three spots in The Open next week after they shot two of the top five rounds in tough third round conditions at Dundonald near Toon.
It was a day made for Harrington, but the 45-year old missed two short par putts at the second and fourth and had to birdie the ninth to go out in three over.
Things didn't improve on the way home as he added two bogeys and a double bogey five at the 15th and signed for a 79 that relegated him from the joint lead to tied 23rd on two-under.
It was Harrington’s highest round in a European Tour event since he posted a 10-over 80 in the 2005 WGC-CA Championship at Doral in 2005.
Dunne, 24, posted a three-under 69 to move up 15 places to tied fifth on six-under par and goes into the final round in possession of the third spot in The Open on offer for non-exempt players finishing in the Top 10.
The already exempt Ian Poulter (71) holds a share of the lead on nine-under with the non-exempt Englishman Callum Shinkwin (72) and Australian Andrew Dodt (71), one stroke clear of early finisher Andy Sullivan (67).
Dunne started with two bogeys but dropped only one more shot all day (at the 15th), picking up six birdies to share fifth place on six-under with Sweden’s Johan Carlsson and the exempt New Zealander Ryan Fox.
The Greystones man will tee it up on Sunday with fellow UAB graudate McDowell,. who looked highly unlikely to challenge for a place at Royal Birkdale when he opened with a three-over par 75.
But the Portrush man has shown all his fighting qualities since then, firing 13 birdies in 36 holes.
He got the best of the early conditions on Saturday and took full advantage, carding eight birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey in a 68 to move up 37 places on the leaderboard from the cut line to a nine-way tie for eighth on five-under.
On a classic Scottish summer’s day which featured gusting winds, driving rain and not the warmest temperatures, Poulter and Dodt managed to post third round scores of one under par 71, while Shinkwin carded a level par 72, to share the nine under lead.
All three leaders are looking to win the European Tour’s fourth Rolex Series event – Poulter is keen to add to his 14 worldwide titles for the first time since 2012 and complete his comeback to the very top level.
Dodt and Shinkwin are eyeing what would be a life-changing victory which would guarantee them a place in the Open Championship at Birkdale next week.
Sullivan took advantage of the ‘easier’ conditions earlier in the day to produce a fine 67, including and eagle three on the 18th, to charge up the leaderboard and into fourth place on seven under.
“I’m pretty happy. I think I would have signed for that before the day started. We knew the conditions were going to be really tough today. That's why they brought the tee times forward as much as they did. I didn't think it would be quite as bad as it was. I mean, I think 12 was about as tough as I've ever seen in terms of wind and rain.
“Attitude is everything, I think. You can beat yourself up before you get on the golf course, which is a problem. So before you go out, you could do half the damage before you start. I think starting with the right frame of mind, you know it's going to be a tough day, but everyone else is going to have just as tough a day as you are.
“I just need to finish one in front of everyone else. Obviously, I'm a leaderboard watcher. I will go out there and do the best I can. I'll be aggressive to the pin locations that I feel are accessible, and just go and have some fun.
“I'm in a good mental state. Obviously a few months back, things were pretty difficult, but life's a little bit easier right now, and obviously, I'm enjoying my golf. I feel good, I feel great, I feel excited to be in this position, and obviously, I relish the opportunity tomorrow to try to put my hand on that trophy. I need to play well. There's a lot of players behind me. There's a lot at stake tomorrow, and obviously, I'm going to do my best.”
“I don't think I've played in wind and rain like that before. It was coming down at a really bad angle, especially the mid part of the round. It was well off the left, horrible for me, but I managed to grind it out and get through level par.
“For the eagle, I managed to hit my best drive of the day. I hit a drive and pitching wedge in to literally walk up and tap-in. It was nice, it makes your round a lot easier.
“When you have a tough day, you can't chase birdies. Pars on tough holes are birdies, and you make the birdies when they come. I just want to take it one shot at a time and try and shoot the best score I can.”
“When we got to the 10th, probably through the 14th, 15th, it started raining and it just got so difficult. I hit a couple of loose shots and probably got a little bit of luck along the way, which you need on a day like this.
“I probably get a bit technical at times with my swing, and out here, I can't get technical at all about where I want to hit it, what flight I hit, where I want to land it on the green. Yeah, gets me out of my head and frees me up.
“I'm not in The Open yet. But fingers crossed this time tomorrow night, we are. I have a five-day holiday in New York, my wife flew in from Sydney this morning. I'll be quite happy to cancel the holiday for a spot in The Open, and my first major.”
“When we started, it was very drizzling with not much wind, so I was thinking - let's make hay while it's like this. I got off to a really good start and took advantage of that, so I was really happy. Through the middle part of the round, the rain really started to get up, and I just thought, just try and pick off the par fives on the way in, which I did really well. I just didn't expect to bogey and double 16 and 17.
“The last, I had a bit of a wait on the tee. Ross Fisher lost a ball, so it really gave me time to compose myself and get back in it. If I had to hit that tee shot within a couple of minutes, I'm not sure it would have hit the fairway.
“It's done us a world of good going into The Open playing these last few weeks getting used to links golf and the aspects of trying to use the contours instead of just flying it all the way through the air. It's nice to get them shots in the bag for next week.”
Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, Dundonald Links (Par 72)
207 C Shinkwin (Eng) 67 68 72, A Dodt (Aus) 67 69 71, I Poulter (Eng) 67 69 71,
209 A Sullivan (Eng) 70 72 67,
210 J Carlsson (Swe) 73 69 68, Paul Dunne (Irl) 68 73 69, R Fox (Nzl) 72 69 69,
211 Graeme McDowell (Nir) 75 68 68, A Wall (Eng) 71 71 69, A Johnston (Eng) 73 68 70, R Fowler (USA) 67 70 74, A Knappe (Ger) 70 65 76, R Bland (Eng) 69 74 68, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 70 72 69, M Kuchar (USA) 68 70 73, B Ritthammer (Ger) 72 69 70,
212 A Otaegui (Esp) 73 66 73, M Pavon (Fra) 69 74 69,
213 R Sterne (RSA) 73 69 71, G Havret (Fra) 71 66 76, L Slattery (Eng) 75 68 70, S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 72 70,
214 B Grace (RSA) 75 67 72, B Hebert (Fra) 68 72 74, A Levy (Fra) 72 66 76, J Campillo (Esp) 72 69 73, R Ramsay (Sco) 68 74 72, Pádraig Harrington (Irl) 67 68 79,
215 N Colsaerts (Bel) 70 67 78, A Cañizares (Esp) 71 72 72, J Scrivener (Aus) 72 68 75, K Broberg (Swe) 69 70 76, S Lee (Kor) 71 72 72, S Brazel (Aus) 72 69 74, M Kieffer (Ger) 71 72 72, L Haotong (Chn) 70 71 74, T Bjørn (Den) 72 71 72, R Rock (Eng) 73 69 73, L Bjerregaard (Den) 69 71 75, M Carlsson (Swe) 68 74 73,
216 A Björk (Swe) 73 70 73, T Aiken (RSA) 69 73 74, M Ilonen (Fin) 65 74 77, H Stenson (Swe) 72 69 75, R Karlsson (Swe) 69 74 73, D Horsey (Eng) 71 68 77,
217 R Fisher (Eng) 69 74 74, S Gros (Fra) 72 71 74, B An (Kor) 72 71 74, B Wiesberger (Aut) 73 69 75,
218 A Chesters (Eng) 71 70 77, R Wattel (Fra) 72 69 77, J Smith (Eng) 72 71 75, P Peterson (USA) 67 76 75, G Stal (Fra) 74 6Padraig harr9 75, A Scott (Aus) 69 71 78, D Howell (Eng) 70 73 75,
219 A Lahiri (Ind) 76 67 76, D Stewart (Sco) 71 70 78, S Gallacher (Sco) 68 72 79,
220 R Gouveia (Por) 70 72 78,
221 P Waring (Eng) 73 70 78,
223 R Paratore (Ita) 69 73 81, L Donald (Eng) 70 72 81,
224 P Hanson (Swe) 69 74 81.