A week which started with high hopes was ending on a low note for Rory McIlroy in the final round of the Open Championship at Royal Lytham today.
McIlroy found himself in a share of fifth place after an opening-round of 67 on Thursday but a second round of 75 saw the world number two only make the halfway cut by one shot on two over par, while he then added a 73 in perfect conditions on Saturday.
That meant another early start this morning for the former US Open champion, but any hopes of a late charge up the leaderboard before the forecast strong winds arrived were soon dashed. After a par on the first, McIlroy bogeyed the second, ran up a double bogey six on the third and then dropped another shot on the fourth.
At nine over par, the 23-year-old was now 20 shots off the lead held by Australian Adam Scott, who was due out at 2:30pm alongside McIlroy's fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell.
McIlroy steadied the ship with four pars to be out in 38, but Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were showing that far better scoring was still possible.
World number three Westwood had started with a run of par, birdie, birdie to improve to two over, while Poulter had eagled the par-four second to lie one over.
McIlroy picked up his first birdie of the day on the 13th and soon added another in some style on the 15th, holing a bunker shot to get back to seven over par.
Westwood's good start had faltered with four dropped shots in five holes, leaving Nicolas Colsaerts to make the most progress up the leaderboard, the Belgian carding five birdies and one bogey in 11 holes to improve to level par.
McDowell shares second place with halfway leader Brandt Snedeker on seven under par, four shots behind Scott, with Tiger Woods another shot back in fourth.
After three days of calm conditions, strong winds are forecast with gusts of 25 to 30mph expected to develop, with isolated gusts of 35mph possible after 3pm.