Darren Clarke didn't need to shoot a final round 76 in the Masters to know that there’s very fine line between success and failure at Augusta National.
Hoping for a sub-par final day and playing well enough to shoot it, he ended up signing for a four over round that left him on nine over par after one of those Masters rounds that slowly ebbed away on capricious gusts of wind, repelled from par by odd bounces.
“It’s Augusta National and a privilege to be here, one of the best golf courses in the world, but it is frustrating at times,” sighed Clarke, who mixed four birdies and with four bogeys and two double bogeys.
“I played quite nicely today, hit a lot of really good shots and just had one of those Augusta days where I got a gust at the wrong time or a bad bounce.
“The bad shots got punished and a lot of the good ones pitched on the wrong side of a little hump — but that’s Augusta.
“You are always on a knife edge because you don’t know what bounce or what side of a little slope you are going to get and if you get on the wrong side you are going to struggle and that’s what I did today.
“I was obviously hoping for a little bit better. But all in all over the four rounds it wasn’t bad on a course that was getting tougher and tougher all the time.”
Clarke came up 20 yards short of the green at the first after the wind switched, two-putt tidily for his birdie at the par-five second but then double bogeyed the fourth.
His hybrid approach leaked right and ran over the back, leaving him an almost impossible pitch that was made doubly difficult by a piece of debris behind his ball that sent it shooting off at a 45 degree angle into the rough.
“That’s just what happens here at Augusta sometimes,” he said with a shrug. “It was a good five.”
He bogeyed the sixth when he came up short of the green after another gust, birdied the long eighth but then bogeyed the ninth to turn in 39 before playing the back nine in just one over.
At the par-three 12th he was inches from clearing in the water and running down close but slipped back into the dark waters of Rae’s Creek instead and did well to make five after overshooting the green with his third.
He then followed a nice birdie from the back bunker at the 13th with a three-putt bogey at the 14th after failing to clamber over a huge ridge at the front of the green by a few inches.
A chip and putt birdie at the 15th improved his mood but after holing a 15 footer from the fringe at the last just to save par he is feeling positive about his improved form with the short stick and confident he’s on track to get his game back into decent shape again.
“I saw massive signs of improvement,” he said. "I will just keep doing what I am doing because it is obviously right.
“I have a few weeks off now and have Charlotte and the Players Championship at Sawgrass and the putting is better.
“I got no momentum going on the greens today and didn ’t make anything. I short-sided myself a few times, not through hitting bad shots but just a couple of funny bounces at the wrong time."
Exempt for the Masters for another two years thanks to his 2011 Open Championship victory, he added: “This is place you always want to come back and play.”
Asked if he saw a green jacket in his future, he beamed: “I just want a beer.”
Then recalling the fitness regime that has seen him lose 49 lbs in six months, he said: “No, wait. I’m off it.” And he was off.