IT could have, and it should have been better. Sounds familiar? Paul McGinley's probably hitting the ball as well as most players who have survived for the weekend shakedown, but yet again in an important tournament he's languishing at the fag end of the putting statistics.

Yesterday's 75 for a dismal seven over par total of 220 featured 32 putts, the same number as a disconsolate McGinley's average for the three rounds to date. Of the 73 competitors who made the cut, he's ranked 72nd in putting. Enough said for the only other Irish player apart from Darren Clarke to come through to the final 36 holes.

"There was definitely a chance for me out there, I mean I hit eight greens in regulation on the way out and I'm one over par, what can you do?" he explained with a pained expression. "I've actually played quite well here, but clearly I haven't been scoring. Check out where I am in the putting stats, and that explains everything." If the heavy overnight rain persisted at the start of the round, at least the course was much more receptive than normal for the third day of the championship, and with the greens rolling at a moderate pace, this was an ideal opportunity for McGinley to improve his lowly position following last Friday's destructive back nine of six over par 41, and to put himself in a position to stock up on some badly needed Ryder Cup points.

Frustratingly, the journey to the turn was decidedly unspectacular with a string of pars until the seventh hole where his drive found one of Troon's inhospitable fairway bunkers. The customary hack out led to a bogey five, but much worse was to follow.

If the 11th is not necessarily the most intimidating hole on the links, this 490-yard brute still calls for a drive of unerring power and precision. From the tee, the vista is gorse, gorse and more gorse, with no sign of the landing area and just the flag flapping far in the distance.

McGinley wasn't the first, and he certainly won't be the last, to stray into the thick gorse near the railway line to the right where his ball was never located even by a small army of spotters and marshals. His provisional wasn't that much better, finding the wispy rough and a clearly disgruntled McGinley wound up with an ugly triple bogey seven.

"Look, everyone hits it over there from time to time, but there were 10 marshals and they didn't even know which bush it went in to, " he fumed.

"It's their job to find the ball, isn't it? Ah, just take it on the chin and move on." It probably didn't help his mood that the punishing 11th has cost him seven shots to date.

There was the temporary respite of birdies at the 14th and the 16th, but any hopes he had of shooting a decent score lay buried in one of the 11th's impenetrable gorse bushes.

Playing alongside Mark Calcavecchia, who won his only major title here in 1989, McGinley featured prominently in the best part of two hours of morning television.

If Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Bernhard Langer, was watching on the Golf Channel back home in Florida he won't have been overly impressed. Increasingly, the hero of the 2002 matches at the Belfry, currently in 15th place in the standings, appears to be in need of a wild card pick. As it panned out, he was comprehensively upstaged by Calcavecchia who compiled a tidy twounder-par 69.

While the exits before the weekend of qualifier Danny Sugrue and the amateur Brian McElhinney were entirely predictable ? although Sugrue found himself sharing the six over par mark with luminaries such as one of the pre-championship favourites Sergio Garcia and John Daly ? Graeme McDowell's failure to make the cut was more disappointing. The damage was effectively done by a first round of 79 and there was little room for McDowell to recover in his first British Open appearance.

As is becoming something of a routine, Padraig Harrington was in enigmatic form about the recurring neck problem that affected him during last Friday's back nine. "It's not like I'm in pain, " he explained, but he was still unable to swing the club freely on his way to missing the cut for only the second time in nine appearances.

"Maybe I have to rest it for a while, " he elaborated, "but I'm not going to rest." Make of that what you will.

As for McGinley, it's a long time since making cuts in major championships was anything to shout about. This is his 12th British Open with a best of tied 14th at Lytham as far back as 1996. And that is simply not good enough.