Rory McIlroy’s challenge wilted with a round of 71 in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on Saturday, which leaves the world number one sharing fifth place - eight shots behind Martin Kaymer, who is on the brink of a fourth victory in the event.
McIlroy got his third round moving with a birdie on the sixth and made another shot on the 12th - but the momentum was immediately halted as he bogeyed the next hole.
The world number one admitted he was left feeling deflated after failing to take advantage of several promising situations with his putter.
He said: “I feel like punching myself. I’m very disappointed, I just didn’t putt well - yesterday or today.
“I hit the ball just as well as I did yesterday and gave myself so many chances but I didn’t convert any. I was very wasteful today. It looks like I’m playing for second place tomorrow.
“You’re always trying to improve and get better and I’m going to have to do something a bit better on the greens to shoot a good number and finish the tournament off well.”
Kaymer carries a six-shot advantage going into the final 18 holes, after a superb third round of 65 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The German star, winner of this tournament in 2008, 2010 and 2011, started brightly with birdies on the first two holes, before trimming another shot on the fifth.
The US Open champion maintained the momentum with birdies on the seventh, eighth, 11th and 13th to move to 20 under par.
Kaymer told Sky Sports: “Hopefully it’s going to be enough - I’ve really enjoyed the course.
“I’ve had a very solid three days, with only two bogeys in the first round.
“I’m a little bit surprised the way I played but the first round showed me I made the right choice taking it a little bit easy over the winter.”
Kaymer’s nearest challenger is Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, whose third round 70 contained three birdies and just one bogey, on the 17th hole.
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who carded seven birdies and one bogey for a round of 66, is a shot further back alongside France’s Alexander Levy, who managed a 67 - the highlight of which was an eagle on the 18th.
South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel and France’s Gary Stal are alongside McIlroy on 12 under, with France’s Victor Dubuisson (64), Wales’ Jamie Donaldson (65) and another South African, Dawie van der Walt (65), benefiting from good third rounds to join America’s Peter Uihlein (70) a shot further back.