AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Brandt Snedeker's voice shook as he tried to get the words out.
He finally gave up, burying his head in a towel and letting the tears flow.
If you'd told him at the beginning of the week that he would tie for the third in his first Masters as a professional, he gladly would have taken it. But to come so close, to know that could have been him out there wearing that green jacket, well, it hurt.
"Just a rough day out there," the 27-year-old said, his eyes watering. "It's hard to put that much effort into something and get so little out of it. But it's just part of life, part of growing up. Obviously, I need a lot more of that. It's just tough right now."
And it likely will be for a while to come.
Playing in the last group Sunday, Snedeker managed only six pars on his way to a 5-over 77. By the time he made the turn, he had as many bogeys (five) as he had in the first three rounds combined. Every time he was on the verge of getting some momentum, something happened to stop him cold.
He moved into a share of the lead with an eagle on No. 2 only to give one of the strokes back on the next hole with a plugged lie in a bunker. He made a birdie on 15 and followed it with a bogey on 16.
But the worst was on the par-5 13th. Snedeker had just made a birdie on 12 that took him to 6 under and cut playing partner Trevor Immelman's lead to three strokes. This was exactly what Snedeker had prepared for, why he had taken advantage of an invitation as the 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion to play unlimited practice rounds at Augusta National, why he had racked up 40 or 50 rounds -- 36 holes a day many weekends -- before his first Masters as a professional.
And he didn't need a refresher course to know where not to hit the ball. He had dunked his second shot in Rae's Creek in front of the 13th green on Saturday. No way he would do that again Sunday.
The ball splashed down in almost the exact same spot, and Snedeker wound up with a bogey.
"If somebody could tell me how to play that second shot, I'd love to know, because two days in a row I've hit it right in the middle of that damn water," Snedeker said. "I told myself not to do it. I tried to pull it and still couldn't do it.
"It's tough when you're looking eagle [or] birdie in the face and you walk out with bogey," he said, his voice catching again. "I could have put a little pressure on Trevor right there, and hope things might have been a little different."
Instead, he was left with a bunch of "What ifs?" He finished in a tie for third with Stewart Cink, four strokes behind Immelman.
"I think I about put myself in a psychiatric ward," he said. "I went from extreme highs to extreme lows and that's what you don't want to do around here. You try to level yourself out. I felt like I did a good job. I never really got too down on myself. But, man, just a lot of emotion."
Too much emotion.
Snedeker endeared himself to the crowds this week with his happy-go-lucky attitude. Two years ago, he was playing a Nationwide Tour event in Athens, Ga. Now he was at Augusta National, playing some of the best golf in his young career and he couldn't stop grinning. (The fact he looks like Opie Taylor's older brother just completes the package.)
That's what made his heartbreak all the more wrenching.
"You know, I have no clue why I am so emotional. I was laughing outside, I'm crying in here. I couldn't tell you. It's just ... " he said, bowing his head as his voice broke.
While Immelman and his family celebrated on the 18th green, Snedeker quickly signed his scorecard and hustled away. After arriving at the media center, he needed several minutes to compose himself. Leaning against a golf cart, he repeatedly blew out his breath and ran a towel over his face.
When a member tried to console him, he could only smile weakly and shake his head.
"Obviously, being in the final pairing the last two days is something I'm very proud of and to be coming back here next year -- hopefully we won't end up here in tears all over again," he said. "But you know, I found out a lot about myself today, and obviously a lot about myself right now. So we'll keep working."