AUGUSTA, Ga. – Adam Scott had the lead. Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy weren't far behind.
Australians were all over the leaderboard at the Masters, chasing the one major championship no Aussie had ever won.
Then, Charl Schwartzel finished with a flurry to close out a Masters unlike any other. And the golfing-mad country will have to wait a little longer for a green jacket winner of its own.
"It's just disappointing that I didn't win when I held the lead with a few holes to go," Scott said, looking down and struggling to get the words out. "I'm usually a pretty good closer. I didn't do a bad job today, but Charl was better. It was an incredible finish. I'm proud of the way I played, but I'm disappointed that I didn't get it done when I was right there at the end."
Scott's failure to either eagle or birdie the par-5 15th hole — where he knocked his approach far right near a grandstand — helped sink his chances of winning a major championship at the age of 30. Though a brilliant tee shot on 16 that led to a tap-in birdie gave him the lead, Schwartzel moved past him with birdies on the last four holes to win a wild Masters.
"He must have hit some beautiful shots," said Scott, who played with Day in the group right in front of Schwartzel. "He's got a hell of a swing. Certainly he's a guy when you're out there playing with him and you see him strike the ball, you take notice because it's pretty impressive."
So was Day, who hardly looked like a Masters rookie.
He posted the best round of the tournament Friday, a 64 that vaulted him into contention, and he never wavered even after struggling on the front side Sunday.
The 23-year-old Day birdied four of the last seven holes, making clutch putts at 17 and 18 that gave him a glimmer of hope until he saw the numbers Schwartzel was posting.
"You can't do anything about a guy who birdies the last four holes of a tournament," Day said. "If you want to go out and win a tournament, that's how you do it."
Ogilvy, a former U.S. Open champion, surged into contention for another major title by ripping off five straight birdies starting at No. 12.
But he couldn't keep it going, settling for pars at the last two holes for a 278, tied with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald. That left the Aussies with three of the top six spots on the leaderboard, just not the one they wanted most of all.
"Obviously, we fell short a little bit, but it just shows how good Australian golf is right now," Day said. "There's a lot of good Australian golfers."
That's nothing new. The continent country has produced nine major champions, led by Peter Thomson with five British Open crowns. In all, the Aussies have won at golf's Big Four an impressive 15 times, but one title has always eluded them.
At the Masters, they're known more for misery than triumph — most notably, Greg Norman's final-round collapse with a seemingly insurmountable lead in 1996.
"You've heard some stories about Greg around here," Day acknowledged.
But he and his mates will be back again in 2012, eager to take another crack at that elusive green jacket.
"I'm not leaving with any regrets because I played my heart out," Day said. "I'm looking forward to next year. Hopefully it'll be as exciting as it was this year."