GULLANE, Scotland — Martin Laird was at home in Scotland, closing in on the lead at the British Open when it all went wrong.
His mess at Muirfield began with a 2-iron that strayed into nasty, yellow rough right of the fairway. After a couple of hacks — and a couple of penalty shots — he staggered off with a quintuple-bogey 9.
And that wasn’t even the worst of his forgettable Saturday. Walking up the 16th fairway, he was informed an additional shot was being added to his score for failing to alert all the right people when he moved his ball in the rough on the 10th hole to identify it.
“To say that deflated me, I think would be an understatement,” Laird said.
He ended his long day with an 81 — 12 shots out of the lead.
“Every time I hit a shot that could go one way, it went the other,” Laird said.
Even after chopping his way to a 9 on the third hole, Laird was only 3 over for the tournament. He bounced back with a beautiful 5-iron into the toughest hole, and then made birdie. What gnawed at him was the 10th hole.
In deep rough, Laird marked his ball with a tee and told the marshal who found it that he was going to make it was his. One problem. The rules require him to tell playing partner Dustin Johnson or one of the walking officials.
“If I had said, ‘Dustin, just went down to find my ball.’ Or, ‘Rules Official, I’m going to identify my ball.’ Even if I said it loud enough for one of them to hear, it would have been fine,” Laird said. “It’s the fact that none of them heard it, even though I said it. So it’s one of those lovely rules of golf.”
Instead, he violated Rule 12-2 that says, “Before lifting the ball, the player must announce his intention to his ... fellow competitor.”
David Rickman, the rules director for the Royal & Ancient, said letting the spotter know wasn’t enough.
“The rule is very specific,” Rickman said. “It needs to be the fellow competitor. The fellow competitor is there to protect the interests of the rest of the field, and therefore, we are specific about who that needs to be. Because you need to give that fellow competitor, or as I say this week, the referee, the opportunity to come over and observe the player’s actions. That’s the protection that the rule gives.”
Worse yet was finding out so deep in a round that had already gone so wrong.
“Walking up 16 when I was told I got a one-shot penalty on No. 10, I don’t even think rubbing salt in the wounds would do enough to describe it,” Laird said.
Mechanic sputters: Miguel Angel Jimenez likes to relax with a good cigar and a glass of red wine. He might need something a little stronger after Saturday.
“The Mechanic” played solidly over the first two rounds and went into Saturday with a one-stroke lead. But he plummeted from contention with a 6-over 77.
This one started bad — four bogeys in the first eight holes — and didn’t improve much. Still within striking distance of the leaders, Jimenez played the final five holes at 4-over par. He took double-bogey at the 16th, needing two swings to escape a pot bunker. At the 17th, he lipped out a 3-footer to save par.
He still has an outside shot, going to the final round six strokes behind leader Lee Westwood. But the fun-loving Spaniard knows his chances are slim, especially with nine players between him and the lead, including Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson — major winners all.