AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jason Day was right where he wanted to be.
Moments later, he was right where he’d been before.
With three holes left in Sunday’s final round at the Masters Tournament, Day was in the lead. A string of three consecutive birdies on the back nine catapulted the 25-year-old Australian into the lead at 9-under with three holes to play.
All Day had to do was finish to possibly win his first major. He couldn’t do it.
Bogeys at 16 and 17 dropped Day to 7-under, two shots out of a playoff between 2009 champion Angel Cabrera and countryman Adam Scott. He could only watch as Scott became Australia’s first Masters champion, sinking a birdie putt on the second playoff hole for the victory.
“Obviously, I think the pressure got to me a little bit,” Day said. “I haven’t had the lead too many times in majors. If you can have a shot in most majors, sooner or later you’re going to get one. I can’t look at the week as a disappointment. Obviously, I’d love to wear the green jacket. I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a kid. I think I just have to take the experience and keep going on.”
The third-place finish at 281 was Day’s second top-three showing at the Masters in three years. In 2011, Day finished tied for second with Scott after the Aussie duo engaged in a back-nine birdie bonanza with Charl Schwartzel.
There wasn’t much more either Day or Scott could do that year as Schwartzel birdied the final four holes to win by two. This time, however, the tournament was seemingly Day’s to lose after he got on his birdie run.
The flurry helped him overtake third-round co-leaders Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker, and No. 16 was a hole he’d parred twice and birdied in the second round en route to the 36-hole lead.
Instead, it was the start of his downfall. Day hit his tee shot long and left and couldn’t get up and down. He followed by putting his approach in the bunker on 17 and again, couldn’t save par.
After finishing bogey-bogey in Saturday’s third round to fall out of a share for the lead, the late collapse this time cost him the title.
“I hit a ton of shots to that back-left pin [on 16],” Day said. “I just rotated the hands a little bit too much, kind of shut it down and it went a little long. I was hoping the putt was going to be a little closer than it was and then I hit a terrible putt.
“On 17, I hit a great drive and a really nice 8-iron at the pin. It only had to go another couple of feet and it would have been over that bunker and been maybe 15, 20 feet and an opportunity to make a birdie there.”
Day made an early charge to the top of the leaderboard with a birdie on No. 1 and then an eagle on No. 2 when he holed his third shot from the bunker in front of the green. He dropped two shots with bogeys on 6 and 9, making the turn three behind Cabrera.
After his roller-coaster ride, Day gave himself a chance for birdie on 18, which at the time would have tied him for the lead with Scott and Cabrera. But he narrowly missed a 15-footer and both Scott and Cabrera wound up making birdie on 18.
“It was just a few little mental errors here and there,” Day said. “Overall, I’m very, very happy with the way I played and how things went this week.”