Seamus Power’s Horizon Irish Open challenge ground to a halt on Saturday afternoon with a hugely disappointing, and unexpected, round of five-over par 77 that saw the Irishman tumble off the top of the leaderboard.
His difficulties were an aberration.
The scoring didn’t go quite as low as expected on another changeable day, but there were three 65s posted and 19 more rounds in the 60s. Any number of players will tee off on Sunday with a belief that they are in a position to claim the win.
A four-under par 68 leaves Poland’s Adrian Meronk alone on the summit at 14-under. That's just one ahead of Jack Senior, Fabrizio Zanotti and Jorge Campillo, but there are no more than five shots separating the top 16 in the field.
Most of them are also chasing the three Open Championship places on offer for those who have yet to book a place at the 150th hosting of the event, at St Andrews, next month. So much to play for, but the home challenge will not be part of the drama.
Power was beautifully positioned at the halfway stage, his eight-under par total from two rounds of 68 leaving him three shots off the leader, but there was a difficult start to his day when play was delayed on the first hole due to a medical emergency in the crowd.
The situation lasted for at least ten minutes and one rules official somehow thought it necessary to put the group on the clock. Power’s main concern later was that the spectator was okay, but he admitted that the timing issue was less than ideal.
"Yeah, look it's such an unusual situation, I'm not sure it's in the rulebook but we don't feel comfortable playing, we were waiting for medics and we weren't sure what was happening. There was kind of panicked people there,” he explained.
“I hit that bad shot on three so we're obviously behind but that's part of competitive golf. You never like being on the clock but if you lose time it's on you to make it back up. To be honest, I felt bad for Jack (Senior) because I was playing so poorly. It was hard to make up time because I was all over the place.”
Power had maintained a level head as he moved into contention with some fine play on the first two days – no easy thing given the demands that come with playing in your home open – and he was no different after this downturn in fortunes.
He refused the suggestion that the heightened expectation had bogged him down and dismissed the role the weather might have played given it pummelled down for no more than 20 minutes. No drama, no fuss, just a round to forget.
“No excuses. One of those days when just everything was poor. Lots of bad swings.”
Three bogeys in his opening ten holes stalled his charge. Even worse was the absence of any red on his scorecard, and a first birdie of the day at 13 was followed immediately afterwards by another dropped shot at the very next hole.
Bad went to much, much worse at the par-four 15th with a double bogey that left him at a scarcely-believable five-over for the day, and just three-under for the week, and he saw out the remainder of the round with three straight pars.
It was a stunning turnaround in fortunes for the 35-year old who has been in exceptional form the last year or more. Only Kazuki Higa put together a worse card today, the Japanese player going one worse with a 78 topped off by a double bogey at 18.
All of which leaves Shane Lowry as the highest-ranked Irish player, on seven-under. This despite having just made the cut thanks to a quartet of birdies at the end of his second round on the Friday, but his third-round 68 won’t be enough to mount a tournament tilt.
Four-under par for his first ten holes, Lowry was up to minus-seven for the tournament at that point, just four shots off the tournament leader at the time, Jorge Campillo of Spain, and with eight holes still to play.
That was where the momentum stalled with five successive pars followed by a first bogey, at the par-four 16th. A fifth birdie – his fourth at a par-five - was followed on 17 for a four-under 68 that leaves him seven back from the leader through three rounds.
“I was pretty happy with the way I played today,” said the Offaly man who won this tournament as an amateur in 2009. “I would obviously like to have shot two or three better and I think after 10 I was thinking I could shoot seven-under but I never really got it going on the back nine.
“I was pretty happy going out there this morning. We got a lovely morning for it and it looks like the wind is actually picking up, which would be nice.
“I still think I am too far back on the golf course, it’s too scoreable, to have a chance but I played some nice golf and hopefully another round like that tomorrow and I will take a little bit of confidence going forward.”
Next best of the home brigade is Padraig Harrington who sits on four-under after a third round of one-under par 71.
-14: A Meronk (Pol) -13: J Senior (Eng), F Zanotti (Par), J Campillo (Esp) -12: J Catlin (USA), E Kofstad (Nor) -11: T Lawrence (Rsa), L Herbert (Aus) -10: A Rozner (Fra), D Whitnell, M Southgate, J Morrison, A Rai (all Eng), D Law (Sco) -9: M Schmid (Ger), R Fox (NZ) -8: R MacIntyre (Sco), R Karlberg (Swe) -7: E Molinari, N Bertasio (both Ita), S Lowry (Ire), H Leon (Chi), T Pieters (Bel), T Olesen (Den), P Larrazábal (Esp), A Björk, S Soderberg (both Swe), F Lacroix (Fra) -6: M Jordan, C Shinkwin (both Eng), J Walters (Rsa), S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), J Brun (Fra), S Kjeldsen (Den), M Schneider (Ger), J Donaldson (Wal) -5: J Veerman, S Crocker (both USA), A Garcia-Heredia, S Tarrio (both Esp), R Ramsay (Sco), O Bekker (Rsa), J Smith (Eng), M Siem (Ger) -4: N Højgaard (Den), H Long, M Kieffer (both Ger), B Stone (Rsa), P Harrington (Ire), J Lagergren (Swe), O Farr (Wal), A Sullivan (Eng), A Quiros (Esp), R Langasque (Fra), M Korhonen (Fin) -3: Y Paul (Ger), M Armitage (Eng), MW Lee, S Hend (both Aus), NN Møller (Den), S Gallacher (Sco), W Besseling (Ned), S Power (Ire) -2: N Kearney (Ire), M Pavon, J Guerrier (both Fra), T Detry (Bel), R Gouveia (Por), R Paratore (Ita) -1: S Välimäki (Fin), M Antcliff (Aus), M Warren (Sco), M Helligkilde (Den) E: T Pulkkanen (Fin), O Wilson (Eng), Z Lombard (Rsa) +1: L Gagli (Ita), K Higa (Jap).