SHANGHAI - Rory McIlroy stormed off the 18th green at the BMW Masters on Saturday having seen a great chance to challenge for the trophy disappear into a greenside bunker.
The 24-year-old banged his putter angrily on the steps leading to the scorers' hut at Lake Malaren in Shanghai after a disastrous double-bogey six at the fearsome finishing hole all but blew away his title hopes.
Luke Guthrie of the United States, who had held sole possession of the lead all week, was joined at the top of the leaderboard on eight-under par by Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello at the end of day three.
Guthrie suffered bogeys at the 16th and 18th to drop him back to the field with a level-par round of 72. Meanwhile the Spaniard shot a fine five-under round of 67.
But the huge crowds had come to see McIlroy and he had looked all set to get into contention as he began the back nine with four birdies in a row to get to four-under par.
The former world number one, who has struggled with his game all year, showed some of his old magic as his birdie blitz propelled him up the leaderboard.
With a birdie opportunity at the par-five 15th to come it looked odds-on that McIlroy would be within touching distance of the leaders going into Sunday's final round of the $7 million event.
But further birdies would not materialise as his touch on the greens deserted him and three putts after splashing out to 15 feet at the last put him back to two-under for the tournament and provoked his angry response.