Lee Westwood, bidding to land his first major at the 62nd attempt, was peering over his shoulder at fellow countryman Ian Poulter who was in spectacular Ryder Cup mode in the British Open final round on Sunday.
Overnight leader Westwood followed two straight pars with a bogey five at the third to drop back to two under par while Poulter produced a scintillating run further up the course.
The 37-year-old Englishman, renowned for his majestic performances in the Ryder Cup, began his charge by ramming in a 25-foot eagle putt at the ninth.
Poulter then rolled in one putt from 40 feet and two from 25 to land a birdie hat-trick from the 10th as the winds began to gust up to 25mph at Muirfield.
He almost made it four in a row but his effort from 10 feet at the 13th slipped just past the hole to remain at level-par.
Westwood began with two rock-solid pars but hooked his drive into thick, wispy rough at the third and could not save par from 10 feet as he dropped back to two under.
Swede Henrik Stenson was his nearest challenger on one under after opening with two birdies in the first five holes.
World number one Tiger Woods looked out of sorts and was muttering darkly to himself after two bogeys in the first four holes dropped him back to one over.
The American, seeking his 15th major victory, three-putted from 90 feet at the first before letting another shot slip three holes later.