Paul Casey became a victim of the Rules of Golf as hopes of another European winner of the Masters faded fast at blustery Augusta today.
While South African Trevor Immelman overcame a nervy start and was on track to win his first major title – he led American Brandt Snedeker and Steve Flesch by four after seven holes of his final round – it all started to go wrong for Casey on the short fourth.
When he birdied the third with a superb pitch to three feet in the difficult conditions Casey was in joint third place with left-hander Flesch.
But then he took two to get out of a greenside bunker, double-bogeyed and promptly bogeyed the next three holes.
It was during that run that he called a penalty on himself when his ball moved after he had addressed it on the sixth green – the second time that had happened to a player during the tournament.
Down to three under par and nine adrift of Immelman, Casey was in a tie for sixth with Open champion Padraig Harrington, who threatened to get into contention when he birdied the second and third, but then followed five successive pars with a bogey on the ninth.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, was still waiting to ignite his last-day bid for a fifth green jacket, 14th major and, of course, the first leg of a Grand Slam he described in January as “easily within reason”.
Six behind at the start of play he missed a three-footer to bogey the fourth, got it back with an iron to five feet at the sixth, but failed to birdie either of the two par-fives on the front nine.
Woods was five under and joint fourth with Stewart Cink.
Snedeker was Immelman’s closest challenger overnight and after matching the Cape Town golfer’s bogey on the first he jumped alongside him with a 30-foot putt on the next for only the second eagle there of the tournament.
However, Snedeker bogeyed the next and let further shots go on the sixth and seventh.
Immelman, who strengthened his grip with a marvellous approach to two feet at the 455-yard fifth, could have stretched his advantage to five on the seventh, but missed from barely three feet.
Ian Poulter had high hopes of getting into contention when he started with birdie putts of 20 and 15 feet to climb to four under, but then it turned into a nightmare.
Poulter bogeyed the third, double-bogeyed the fifth, triple-bogeyed the 180-yard sixth and double-bogeyed the next.
When another double bogey went on his scorecard at the 11th he was way down to four over.
At least Lee Westwood was going better, but at level par with five to play he was just playing for a top 16 spot to earn a return trip next April.
Nick Dougherty had set off with that aim, but playing the last was four over and joint 28th.