SAN DIEGO, Calif.: Halfway U.S. Open co-leader Richard Bland received a sobering reality check when he plunged out of contention with a six-over-par 77 in the third round at Torrey Pines on Saturday.
The 48-year-old English journeymen held it together with just one bogey on the front nine.
But he struggled as the course firmed up in the afternoon sunshine, dropping five more shots and finishing ignominiously by hitting a ball into the pond known as Devlin's Billabong - named after Australian Bruce Devlin - in front of the 18th green.
Bland said that conditions had been much tougher on Saturday afternoon than when he played on Friday morning, and that he had not been able to adapt.
"Yesterday morning, it was pretty soft, so you could be a little bit more aggressive," he said.
"Today, (the greens) were a lot firmer, and if you're going to give yourself decent chances, you have to be spot on with your distance control with your irons, and that's where I fell down today. I struggled with my irons all day.
"I drove the ball pretty good, which is what you need to do. I just couldn't take advantage from there, and I didn't really give myself any decent looks for birdies."
Bland last month was rewarded for decades of perseverance when he became the oldest first-time winner on the European Tour.
He has endured too many hard knocks during his long career to let Saturday's disappointment sting too much.
"That's the U.S. Open," he said.
"Some days it's just going to beat you up all day, and today was my day.
"Just put this one down to experience."
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Christopher Cushing)