For much of Sunday's final round at the PGA Championship, Scott Verplank flirted with a major victory for the ages until he was undone by a sudden shift in wind direction and a double-bogey at the par-three 17th.
The 47-year-old American, bidding to become the second oldest player to win one of golf's grand slam events, watched in horror as his tee shot drifted left before his ball disappeared into the lake guarding the front of the green.
"The wind should have been in from the left on 17, and for some reason my ball started hooking," Verplank told reporters after carding an even-par 70 at Atlanta Athletic Club to finish in a three-way tie for fourth at five under.
"I started right at the flag and, if anything, I thought it would probably cut since I normally cut the ball a little bit.
"The wind should have been helping it left to right, and it started hooking. I don't know how. I don't know what it did, but I was a little shocked."
Verplank, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour, began the final round two strokes off the pace and swiftly moved to within a stroke of the lead when he sank a five-foot birdie putt at the par-four second.
Though he slipped back with bogeys at the sixth and 11th, he suddenly found another gear over the closing stretch.
He rammed in a 25-footer to eagle the par-five 12th before spectacularly holing out from a greenside bunker to birdie the tricky par-four 16th.
"I was very lucky," Verplank said of his final birdie of the round which left him three shots off the lead. "I just got it up there in the bunker and had a tough shot. It was all luck but I hit a great shot.
"When I hit it, I thought it was going to be close. I never saw it go in because I was too far below the hole.
"I had no idea what Jason (Dufner) was doing, but obviously I knew it got me up there a little bit closer, and then the next hole came."
As it happened, Verplank would have finished one stroke shy of joining a playoff for the title with compatriots Dufner and Keegan Bradley had he not double-bogeyed 17 to lose momentum.
Overall, though, he was delighted to end the week tied for fourth with fellow American David Toms and Swede Robert Karlsson after a 2011 PGA Tour campaign hampered by a lingering wrist injury.
"I did a nice job being patient, hanging in there," Verplank said. "I played all week without my wrist really bothering me. It's been a long time since that's happened, but I really felt pretty good.
"I wouldn't say that I played my best golf, but I hung in there and got a decent score."
Verplank, whose most recent PGA Tour victory came at the 2007 Byron Nelson Classic, had been bidding to become the oldest major winner since compatriot Julius Boros clinched the 1968 PGA Championship aged 48.