By Julian Linden
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Adam Scott was left to rue what might have been after his Masters defense ended with a whimper on Sunday.
The Australian's prospects of claiming back to back titles were already a long shot after he started the final day six shots behind the eventual winner Bubba Watson.
Scott knew that he needed to shoot a low score to put any pressure on the leaders but try as he might he was unable to mount a challenge.
Scott closed with a 72 to finish the tournament at one-over-par, nine strokes behind Watson in a tie for 14th.
"I wasn't really thinking about anything, other than trying to right the ship and try to get something going," he said.
"That was just the story of my weekend with some sloppy stuff around the greens, and that doesn't bode well here."
Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters when he beat Angel Cabrera in a thrilling playoff last year and made a flying start to his title defense when he opened with a three-under-par 69.
He salvaged a 72 in the second round after playing in tough conditions when the wind started to blow but tumbled down the leaderboard with a third round 76.
The 33-year-old was one of the best players of the tournament off the tee, hitting long and accurate drives, but struggled badly on the greens.
"It's not been my best week with the putter. My pace was off on the long putts," he said.
"And when it gets on fire around here, you're going to have a lot of long putts. And I left so much work with them, that nothing was talking distance.
"I missed my share of them and had some three-putts and it just makes it very hard to have really good scores every day around here."
Scott has been a regular contender at the Masters in recent years after making his move on the final day. In addition to winning last year, he finished tied for second in 2011.
For a brief moment, Scott looked like he was about to make another charge on Sunday when he reeled off three birdies in a row from the seventh hole, but he could not maintain it on the back nine, where he has excelled in recent years.
"A poor nine holes on Saturday stopped all my momentum and had me on the back foot and I just couldn't go anywhere from there," he said.
"That's what it's like at majors. You're nine good holes from winning it and nine bad holes from being out of it.
"Without being too critical I think I just played an average nine holes and that was going to make it hard for me."
Despite his disappointment, Scott said he loved the whole experience of defending the title, from hosting the annual champions dinner to presenting Watson with the green jacket in Butler Cabin.
"It's been a week I'll never forget," he said.
"The experiences I've had in playing a tournament as the defending champion and as a champion, and all the ovations that you receive around here is amazing memories for me."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)