New Zealand golfer David Smail could barely utter the words as he tried to comprehend how he surrendered a four-shot lead in the Australian Open yesterday.
"I'm just gutted really, I can't say much about it. Everything was going so well until the tee shot on 15," he said, moments after signing for a final round three-over-par 75 to finish tied for third.
He was one shot behind South African Tim Clark and Australian Matthew Goggin. Clark banked the A$315,000 ($386,266) winner's cheque and hoisted the Stonehaven Cup aloft after he won the first play-off hole at Royal Sydney.
Sadly, it was all about Smail.
The New Zealander dominated much of the final day and teed off confidently at the 10th with a four-shot lead, before a meltdown on the 15th and 16th holes which produced back-to-back double-bogeys.
He barely recovered, but did well to keep himself in the game enough to have a slim chance on the final hole.
A shot adrift going into the 18th before a large gallery, Smail boldly tried to chip in from 15m for birdie to join the play-off but his shot just slid wide of the hole, and he holed the downhill par putt to share third with Australians Robert Allenby and Stephen Dartnall.
The Hamiltonian was bidding to become the first New Zealander to win the Australian Open in its 104-year history, and complete a treble of national Opens after New Zealand in 2001 and Japan in 2002.
New Zealand's No 1 Smail, who banked around A$90,000 for his efforts, bravely fronted up after the final round but struggled for answers before wandering into the arms of his wife, Sheree.
"It's been a long year, but looking back I can't think of a tournament I've really lost before when I've been up there I've managed to finish it off - so it's a pretty gutting feeling."
He has picked up three second placings in the past 13 months, with his last win the Japan Tour's Acom International in 2005. Still, he'd finished 20th on this year's Japan Tour with earnings of $1.13 million.
Smail mastered the gusty northerly for much of the weekend and stood at the narrow 403m par-four 15th trying for more of the same.
"The wind was coming hard from the left and I still hit a pretty good shot and it kept on drawing against the wind, it just stopped," Smail said. "I chipped out pretty well but I was a bit shattered after that. I hit a bad iron shot and didn't get up and down, then I really lost my way.
"It can change so much, the wind. I thought I battled it pretty well all day. So 15 was the turning point really, that tee shot."
Smail began yesterday with a one-shot lead over Australian Andre Stolz after a 30-hole marathon on Saturday when he teed off at 6.45am (local time) after rain suspended play on Friday. "I'm feeling exhausted anyway, it's been such a long year, 12 tournaments in the last 14 weeks," he said. "It could have been a lack of focus towards the end, but I think most of my decisions were pretty good."
Two brilliant shots gave Smail a handy buffer on the front nine; the first came when he hit the pin and tapped in for birdie on the 143m par-three sixth, the second saw him almost chip in for eagle from the rough on the eighth.
World No 42 Clark raced to six-under after 13 holes but looked to have blown it when he found a nasty bunker and double-bogeyed the par-three 14th.
The South African shot 67 and admitted later he was munching on a pie and chips in the clubhouse when word arrived of Smail's meltdown, and he rushed to the practice range.
Clark found a greenside bunker with his approach on the first play-off hole but got up and down for par, while Goggin's shorter par putt caught the left edge of the cup and failed to drop, leaving the South African as a stunned victor.
Clark had earlier fronted the media after his final round and said he felt he had needed two more birdies to challenge for the Stonehaven Cup.
Smail's compatriot Mark Brown struggled in the wind for a final round 75 to finish two-under in a share of 21st.
Gareth Paddison overtook Brown to be second-best New Zealander with a final round 72 to finish three-under, while US Amateur champion Danny Lee shot 75 to finish one-under.