Jason Day stood in the rain, ready to bolt to go watch his friend and fellow Australian Adam Scott defeat Angel Cabrera in a Masters playoff.
Less than an hour earlier, it appeared that it would be Day, not Scott, winning after he birdied Nos. 13, 14, 15 to reach 9 under. That stretch gave him a two-stroke lead and seemingly one arm in the coveted green jacket.
Instead one slightly mishit tee shot and an average short iron missed their intended targets by a few feet. Day carded consecutive bogeys as a result and finished 7 under, missing a spot in the playoff by two strokes and therefore the chance to win his first major.
“I love this tournament regardless of where I finish today,” Day said. “It’s obviously an honor to come this week and play and play against the best players in the world and obviously have a shot at winning my first major and being the first Australian to win the Masters.
“It’s a little disappointing, but there’s a lot of experience that I can take into next year and hopefully I can wear one of those green jackets soon.”
Day had his shot.
Day vaulted from 5 under to 8 under with a birdie-eagle start. He gave back two strokes with bogeys on No. 6 and 9 before settling down for four consecutive pars. Day got himself back into the tournament with a three-foot birdie putt on No. 13, a 12-footer on No. 14 and a tap-in on 15 to reach 9 under.
But he gave back his lead with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17. Day said he “rotated his hands” a bit too much on his tee shot into the 170-yard 16th. As a result, the ball flew past the pin and settled into the second cut a few feet off the green, leaving him a tricky chip to the back-left pin placement.
Day could have tried to chip the ball toward a ridge in the green and had it push the ball toward the pin. Instead, he tried a more direct line. The chip landed near the edge of the green, but refused to roll, leaving several feet for par. Day missed the putt to the right. The bogey dropped him to 8 under and into a tie with Scott, who birdied No. 15 less than 200 yards behind him.
Day gathered himself and hammered his drive on No. 17, leaving an 8-iron into the back-right pin placement. Day thought he hit it well enough.
“It was dead at it, and it only had to go a couple feet, and it would have been over that bunker and maybe 15, 20 feet and would have had an opportunity to obviously make a birdie there,” he said.
Instead, his approach landed in the bunker.
Day had hit two exquisite bunker shots earlier in the day — holing an eagle on No. 2 and splashing another on No. 13 to within a few feet.
But on No. 17, perhaps because of the wet sand, his bunker shot skidded 15 feet past the flag. Day missed the par putt to the right, dropping him to 7 under.
But Day, just 25 years old, smiled as he stood partially covered by an umbrella with his wife and baby son waiting a few feet away.
“I can’t look at the week as a disappointment,” he said. “Obviously I’d love to wear the green jacket. I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a kid. I think I’ve just got to take the experience and just keep going on.”
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