England expected at the 140th Open Championship, at least in the form of the world's top-two players, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. But forget lifting the Claret Jug tomorrow.
Lifting the luggage into the car for an early return home last night was more like it. Donald knew he had not qualified for the weekend when he bogeyed the last four holes and finished at six over par after a 75.
Westwood had a more agonising wait having got in at four over, a score that flirted with the possibility of two more rounds in the oldest championship of them all, but always looked like being one stroke too many – which proved to be the case.
Donald triumphed in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart a week ago but never found the form here that has made him the world's No 1. Three bogeys in the first four holes meant it was always going to be a struggle but when he got back to two over with five to play he felt he might still be able to strike at the weekend.
From the 15th, however, it was a disaster and at the 17th he could not escape a perilous spot in a bunker. "It was a horrible lie," Donald said of not being able to find the green, "but it was a horrible shot to get there in the first place."
Donald said he did not feel any more pressure in his exalted position in the rankings but admitted he is at a loss to explain his lack of a challenge at the Open. "I feel I've tried everything over the years," he said.
"I tried to prepare the best I can and I know I have the ability to win a major. I've got to figure out a better way to play the Open. I'll keep searching and trying to put myself into position to challenge."
Westwood did not stop to discuss his prospects after a 73 in which each of his three birdies was followed either by a bogey or the double bogey he took at the eighth. His straight-backed retreat from the recording area said it all. He could not get out of there quick enough. His 35 putts told the tale of his round. It was eight more than the average for the field. Give Westwood those eight shots back and he would have been sharing the clubhouse lead. Give him half of them back, leaving him at level par, and he would have taken his chances over the week.
While Donald and Westwood have yet to win a major title, and time is not on Westwood's side, Graeme McDowell has another problem. The Northern Irishman won the US Open at Pebble Beach last year and starred at the Ryder Cup. But this year he has been consistent only in his inconsistency and a 77 followed his opening 68.
"It is becoming a habit, these types of days," he said. "Maybe my expectation level is putting too much pressure on myself. This is the Open, we are under pressure. We want to do well. Maybe I'm putting a little too hard. I'm a bit of a mental case out there. I love this game and I'm working my ass off but it is not paying off. I'm not thinking very well. It is easy to think well when things are going right, but when things aren't going well, it is very difficult. I need to get back to grinding out rounds and stringing four good rounds together. I couldn't even string two together this week.
"It's anyone's Open right now," he added. "It's wide open. I felt if I kept it at level or a couple over, I'd still have a chance. It's just disappointing and frustrating."
Third Round Tee-off times
Tee-off times in the third round of The 140th Open Championship, Royal St George's GC, Sandwich, Kent, England
(GB & Irl unless stated, all times Local):
(x) denotes amateurs
Starting at hole 1
08.55 Matthew Millar (Aus)
09.05 Paul Lawrie, Gregory Bourdy (Fr)
09.15 Paul Casey, K J Choi (Kor)
09.25 Ryan Moore (US), Gary Woodland (US)
09.35 Simon Khan, Gregory Havret (Fra)
09.45 Floris De Vries (Neth), Fredrik Andersson Hed (Swe)
09.55 Henrik Stenson (Swe), Edoardo Molinari (It)
10.05 Peter Uihlein (US), Bill Haas (US)
10.20 Bo Van Pelt (US), Jung-Gon Hwang (Kor)
10.30 Ricky Barnes (US), Tom Watson (US)
10.40 Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Jim Furyk (US)
10.50 Justin Rose, Trevor Immelman (SA)
11.00 Joost Luiten (Neth), Mark Wilson (US)
11.10 Kenneth Ferrie, Harrison Frazar (US)
11.20 Richard McEvoy, Seung-yul Noh (Kor)
11.35 Stewart Cink (US), Stephen Gallacher
11.45 Gary Boyd, Robert Allenby (Aus)
11.55 Bubba Watson (US), Jason Day (Aus)
12.05 Charles Howell III (US), Rory Sabbatini (SA)
12.15 Richard Green (Aus), Raphael Jacquelin (Fr)
12.25 Spencer Levin (US), Sergio Garcia (Sp)
12.35 Rickie Fowler (US), Rory McIlroy
12.50 Yuta Ikeda (Japan), Simon Dyson
13.00 Fredrik Jacobson (Swe), Robert Rock
13.10 Webb Simpson (US), Steve Stricker (US)
13.20 Zach Johnson (US), YE Yang (Kor)
13.30 Anthony Kim (US), Kyle Stanley (US)
13.40 Ryan Palmer (US), Jeff Overton (US)
13.50 Tom Lewis (x), Phil Mickelson (US)
14.05 Adam Scott (Aus), Anders Hansen (Den)
14.15 Dustin Johnson (US), George Coetzee (SA)
14.25 Tom Lehman (US), Davis Love III (US)
14.35 Charl Schwartzel (SA), Pablo Larrazabal (Sp)
14.45 Miguel Angel Jimenez (Sp), Thomas Bjorn (Den)
14.55 Martin Kaymer (Ger), Chad Campbell (US)
15.05 Lucas Glover (US), Darren Clarke