Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Players Championship winning hero Rickie Fowler saw his chances of winning a second event in succession abruptly ended when he horribly recorded two '8s' over the closing two holes on day three of the Irish Open at Royal County Down.
Fowler put two balls out-of-bounds, lost a third into bushes and playing the 17th and 18th holes in seven over par on route to an eventual five over par 76.
There had been joy for the world number nine, and the highest ranked player left in the field, when Fowler holed a chip shot for eagle at the par four 16th.
So Fowler ended his round with scores of 2 - 8 - 8 and playing the last three holes in five over par.
A fortnight ago Fowler needed just 11 shots over the closing four holes to force his way into a play-off at TPC Sawgrass on route to victory at the fourth extra hole.
Fowler now heads to the final round of the 2.5m euro event sharing 36th place and a dozen shots from the lead.
Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen, and looking to end a six-year victory drought, also came unstuck over the closing two holes to let slip a four stroke leading cushion in a round of a four-under par 67 and see his lead cut to just two shots at seven under par.
Germany's Maximilian Kieffer posted the best round of the day with a six under par 65 to be tied in second place with Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello (69).
The 40-year old Kjeldsen's last victory was in 2009 when he secured a third Tour title in winning the Andalucia Open in Spain.
Kjeldsen had been six under par for his round, including three birdies in succession from the 11th hole, before his closing pair of bogeys.
"It surprised me somewhat that it seemed such easy going for the first 13 holes on what was another tough day," he said to reporters.
"But the course got some back from me on 17 and 18, and eventually the golf course is going to get you, so overall it was still an excellent day’s golf.
"I didn’t hit a great tee on 17 and then hit two good putts on 17 and 18 but they didn’t drop but that's part of the deal as you do your bit and they drop and other times they don’t."
After a disappointing start to his 18th full season the England-based Dane has begun to turn his game around in recent weeks with a ninth in last fortnight's Spanish Open and a share of 18th last week at Wentworth.
"The last two weeks has been really good for me as the graph is going up, and I felt good coming here," he said.
"But then it’s been a long time since I won and the competition out there is pretty hard, so it's not easy to win, and it's not like I have played poorly for the past six years.
"It’s just nice now to have a chance to win tomorrow (Sunday)."
The leading three players also are in contention to secure one of three places available this week into next month’s Open Championship at St. Andrews.
Biggest disappointment on day three was former Irish Open winner Padraig Harrington who was striving to become only the second Irish-born player in 66-years to win two Irish Open titles.
Harrington had been well in contention at three-under par however a third day score of 78 sent him back to a share of 36th place and joining Fowler and 11 others at five over par.