So blowing his lead with a double bogey on the very first hole Sunday wasn't as crushing as it could have been.
'I was 5 over after 10 holes (in) the first round,' Appleby said. 'Here I am, the meaty end of the tournament and I almost got my nose across the line. From a stage where I didn't think I was going to get my nose across making the cut. So yeah, that was good.'
He shot a 3-over 75 Sunday to finish at 5 over, tied for seventh with Padraig Harrington and four strokes behind winner Zach Johnson.
Appleby has contended at a major before. He finished in a tie for second at the 2002 British Open after a four-man playoff, and tied for fourth at the 2000 PGA Championship.
But he'd never finished better than 19th at the Masters. And this is the one major an Aussie has never won. For a time in the 1990s, Greg Norman getting his heart broken was as much a tradition at Augusta National as the green jacket.
If Appleby was feeling the pressure, he didn't show it.
'The lead meant nothing to me, it just meant nothing,' he said. 'It's just such a golf course. There was just too many players too close to even care whether you were one shot ahead, one shot behind, or three shots behind or three shots ahead.'
Good thing, too. Because Appleby's lead was gone after the first hole.
His tee shot sailed into the woods on the right side of the No. 1 fairway. He thought he had a good second shot but he pulled it and 'it was tough from then on.'
He recovered well enough from the double bogey to climb into a four-way tie for the lead on the back nine. But he dunked his 7-iron into Rae's Creek on No. 12 for another double bogey, and was never a factor again.
POOR GOLF CLUB
The 4-iron never had a chance.
Tiger Woods snapped the shaft of his club while punching out from behind a tree on the 11th hole Sunday.
His drive landed to the right and slightly behind one of the pines that was planted in recent years specifically to make the layout at Augusta National more difficult.
Woods took a swing to punch the ball back into the fairway and the shaft of the club rammed into the trunk of the tree and bent in half. Woods let go of the club as soon as he could after making contact, knowing he could have broken his arm or hand had he held on.
Instead, it was the club that took the abuse. Woods picked it up after the shot and finished the job, snapping it in two. He saved par on the hole.
A less-than-ideal moment in a less-than-ideal round.
'But it is what it is,' Woods said.
The Rules of Golf state that players can replace a club if it is broken in the course of normal play, but Woods never went for a replacement.
Phil Mickelson didn't bother waiting until the last hole for this Sunday meltdown at a major.
Never much of a factor this week, the defending Masters champion ended any chance he had of winning with a triple bogey on the par-4 No. 1 on Sunday.
'I didn't feel I played that well. Certainly not as well as I wanted,' Mickelson said after shooting a 5-over 77 that left him tied for 24th. 'It wasn't my day, but it sure turned out to be an exciting Masters with a lot of guys in it, eagles on the back nine, birdies.
'I just wasn't one of them.'
Mickelson arrived at Augusta brimming with confidence. He'd already won once this year, at Pebble Beach, and thought he'd figured out the driving woes that led to his 72nd-hole collapse at the U.S. Open last year.
He'd won two of the last three Masters, and was considered the guy to beat along with Tiger Woods.
But he found himself flirting with the cut line Thursday after playing his first seven holes at 5 over. He grinded his way back into the tournament and was still optimistic Saturday, saying he knew the winner would end up over par.
He was right about that. But his only role in Butler Cabin late Sunday afternoon was to put the jacket on winner Zach Johnson.
Mickelson finished tied with Geoff Ogilvy, who won the U.S. Open after Lefty fell apart.
'I'm certainly thinking ahead about the U.S. Open,' Mickelson said. 'I'd like nothing more than to come back after last year's loss and come back with a victory there.'
The par-4 11th was the hardest hole this week, averaging 4.509 strokes, followed by No. 1 at 4.474 stroke. The easiest to play was the par-5 No. 8, which averaged 4.766 strokes.
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