A stunned Phil Mickelson was left to contemplate his most painful moment in golf after a double-bogey at the last gifted the US Open to Geoff Ogilvy.
Mickelson can scarcely believe what he has just done
The American needed only to par the 18th to claim his third straight major.
But he hit the hospitality tent with his drive and then a tree with his second to blow his chance of victory.
"I just can't believe I did that - I am such an idiot," said the USPGA and Masters champion. "This one is going to take a little while to get over."
The world number two was attempting to become only the fourth player to win three straight majors after Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones.
But with a place in history beckoning, the 36-year-old suffered the kind of collapse most golf fans thought he had consigned to his past.
"I just couldn't hit a fairway all day," said a shell-shocked Mickelson.
I came out here and worked hard all four days, haven't made a bogey there all week and then bogeyed the last
"I just can't believe I couldn't par the last hole. It really stings.
"This one hurts more than any tournament because I had it won. It hurts because I had it in my grasp and just let it go.
"The biggest reason why it's so disappointing is that this is a tournament that I dreamt of winning as a kid.
"I spent countless hours practising, dreaming of winning this tournament.
"I came out here weeks and months in advance to get ready and had it right there in my hand. It was right there and I let it go. I just can't believe I did that.
"I came out here and worked hard all four days, haven't made a bogey there all week and then bogeyed the last."
Winless in his first 42 majors, Mickelson had laboured under the tag of "best player never to have won a major" until the crowd favourite landed the 2004 Masters.
Prior to that victory, it was widely believed his all-or-nothing approach would continually be his downfall on the big stage.
After his Augusta breakthrough a new, more focused Mickelson seemed set to challenge Woods' domination of the sport.
And up until the 72nd hole at Winged Foot this week his new approach appeared to be working.
But even for a player as imaginative as Mickelson there are only so many times you can miss the fairway at a course like Winged Foot and hope to get away with it.
A 12th missed fairway of the day started his problems on 18 but it was his wildly optimistic second shot that ultimately doomed the left-hander to his fourth second-place finish in the championship he wants to win most of all.