Perhaps it was a touch of the sun, or a supreme confidence in his own ability. Whatever, Rory McIlroy defence of his Emirates Australian Open title to join Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman as the only players to win back-to-back opens took a enormous jolt today.
The Northern Irishman, who was tied at the top of the leaderboard with Rod Pampling, American Jordan Spieth, Brett Rumford and Greg Chalmers as he played the ninth of the third round, blocked his drive in the thick fescue grass on the right side of the fairway.
He could have declared his ball unplayable, but he attempted the possible of a challenge that looked impossible. An enormous swipe at the ball failed to dislodge, in fact, it became even deeper in the mulga.
Then, he finally took his medicine and took a two club-length penalty drop. It didn’t give him full relief off the wood chip surround of the fescue but he got it back into play.
So, four shots (one a penalty) already played. His next shot, a wedge from 60 metres, found the green about six metres from the pin. He two-putted for a triple bogey seven.
Suddenly, inexplicably, he was three shots off the lead. It is understood rules officials will review the incident before a triple bogey is confirmed.