Luke Donald intended to be so much more than a disgruntled also-ran at this Masters. As the world No 1, it would only have been fitting if he was among the protagonists who would contest one of the most anticipated majors in recent memory. Alas, the Englishman will be looking on and wondering.
Donald had finished his third round before the likes of Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood had even set out, with rich green burning tantalisingly in their vision.
So Donald is resigned to going at least two more months without a major. A double bogey seven on the 13th, after finding the water, doused the last embers of his optimism. He actually holed his second shot on the par-four third for an eagle, but any dreams of a resurgence were shortlived. He eventually signed for a 75 to leave himself way down the field at seven over.
All that confidence, all those hopes, shot down in 54 holes of rank mediocrity. Credit to the player who is rated the best on the planet for facing up to the shortfall with honesty and humility. As ever, those qualities should stand him in good stead.
"I am disappointed," said the 34-year-old, who was over par and perhaps overcooked. "I was prepared as I've ever been for any event anywhere. I think back to last weekend when in practise I was hitting it so well. Careless mistakes have cost me and I have to keep working through that. At my stage of my career I need to be continually getting into contention to win majors. This isn't good enough."
Donald is plainly thankful that his profession offers the chance for quick, if not immediate redemption. No doubt he will return to the regular schedule and resume his remarkable run of consistency. Indeed, it would be a brave man who gambled against him adding to the five titles he has won in the last 14 months. But as Donald himself intimated, there are bigger prizes on which to focus.
To this end, Donald is ready to go back and forth across America, not to mention the Atlantic, on the reconnaissance missions he believes are required to take the next step.
"I haven't played two of the courses which host the next three majors," said Donald. "And I played Lytham a long time ago when I was an amateur. So I don't have a lot of experience of these venues. Maybe that's a good thing. I thought I'd prepared really well for this week and it obviously hasn't gone to plan. But I'll keep plugging away. I'll go and visit all of the courses in the weeks before the majors and make sure I've done plenty of my homework but I turn up in game week."
When it comes to Augusta, however, Donald sounds like a student struggling over his calculus.
"Augusta is tricky; it's not like a regular golf course," he said. "There's a lot of slopes on the greens and it takes a different type of focus. For whatever reason I haven't been as sharp as I usually am. That is something I will have to look at."
Donald is not the only one with some updating to do. He is anything but a recalcitrant by nature, yet he has urged Augusta officials to take steps to ensure no player has to go through what he did on Thursday. For 20 minutes he feared he would be disqualified for a scorecard error, before the greenjackets confessed it was "adminsitrative error".
Explaining the farce, Donald told The Independent on Sunday: "It was a shock and it shouldn't happen in this modern age. There's too many steps to the whole process. What happens is once the scorers are done with the cards they give them to someone else to photocopy or fax for reference. When they fax or photocopy a scorecard they want it to come out darker. So they go over the numbers. And they thought my five on the fifth looked like a three. You could see on the card they were squiggles that made it look like a five and that over the top somebody had written a three over it.
"I told them, 'Hey, I'm pretty diligent about this sort of thing,' and told them I didn't believe it and wanted to see the original scorecard. But it was a fright; certainly when you think you might be disqualified. As thorough as I think I am in the scoring tent you always have that doubt that you make a mistake."
Donald refused to blame his poor form on the affair (which, disgracefully, took at least an hour and a half to resolve and left Donald ringing his panicking wife with reassurance). One of the big lessons Donald has learned is to take the knocks and set himself new goals. His graciousness is a quality which Tiger Woods should heed.
After the ugly scene of Friday night, which featured a furious Woods volleying a nine-iron 10 yards, he was back on the course yesterday morning displaying his petulance as his charge was failing to materialise.
At least he didn't put boot to club after he hooked into the woods on the par-five 13th. But he did throw his driver in disgust. Woods, like Donald, came into the 76th Masters so pumped up, yet by the Saturday evening was so deflated. Let's face it, in very different ways, with very contrasting reactions, the pressure got to them both.Reuse content