Rory McIlroy stormed off the 18th green at the BMW Masters yesterday after having seen a great chance to challenge for the trophy disappear into a greenside bunker.
The 24-year-old banged his putter angrily on the steps leading to the scorers’ hut at Lake Malaren in Shanghai after a disastrous double-bogey six at the fearsome finishing hole all but blew away his title hopes.
Luke Guthrie of the US, who had held sole possession of the lead all week, was joined at the top of the leaderboard on eight-under-par by Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello at the end of day three.
Guthrie suffered bogeys at the 16th and 18th to drop him back to the field with a level-par round of 72. Meanwhile, the Spaniard shot a fine five-under round of 67.
However, the huge crowds had come to see McIlroy, and he had looked all set to get into contention as he began the back nine with four birdies in a row to get to four under par.
The former world No. 1, who has struggled with his game all year, showed some of his old magic as his birdie blitz propelled him up the leaderboard.
With a birdie opportunity at the par-five 15th to come, it looked odds-on that McIlroy would be within touching distance of the leaders going into today’s final round of the US$7 million event.
However, further birdies would not materialize as his touch on the greens deserted him, and three putts after splashing out to 15 feet at the last put him back to two-under for the tournament and provoked his angry response.
Playing partner Gregory Bourdy of France did manage to get up and down at the last to complete a fine bogey-free round of 67 to lie in fourth place at six-under par.
In third place is another Spaniard, Fernando Gonzalez-Castano, on seven under par. He was one of the few players to tame the fearsome 471-yard 18th hole as he made a birdie to return a card of 67.
Earlier in the day, a distraught Simon Dyson of England, who had been in a six-way tie for second after Friday’s play, left for the airport after being disqualified before he could start his third round yesterday morning.
Several TV viewers had noticed him illegally tap down something on the eighth green on Friday and e-mailed the European Tour.
After viewing footage, he was deemed to have touched the line of his putt in contravention of the rules. The offence carries a two-shot penalty, but as Dyson had already signed for a round of 70 and not 72, it meant the end of his tournament.