AUGUSTA, Ga. -- "Golf happened."
Yes, it very much did Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club, and that was the best explanation Rickie Fowler could manage in trying to explain his opening, hope-ending 8-over-par 80 in an accidental nod to commemorating the 80th Masters Tournament. The skittish effort on a blustery day was his worst by four shots and put him in danger of missing his first cut in six Masters starts.
Rated among the favorites heading into the year's first major, Fowler, 27, posted his third round of 80 or higher in a major championship, following a first-round 81 in last year's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and a second-round 80 in the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. Fowler has not had a top-10 finish in a major since 2014, when he finished in the top five in all four.
"Golf's not an easy game," said Fowler, who still looked shell-shocked afterward.
"It is a fine line, especially at this place," he added. "You see Jordan [Spieth] out there, I think he's at five or so [under] right now. I go play a decent back nine and I'm 3‑under par. It can go either way and it can definitely go the other way, the high number way, a lot easier than it can the low."
The No. 5 player in the world, Fowler looked like he was on his way to a decent day despite a double-bogey on the opening hole. He birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 5, the latter with an approach to four feet after the ball nearly landed in the hole on the fly. He bogeyed the seventh, and then a bogey at the 10th from the bunker kicked off his struggle to an inward 44 that included a triple-bogey at the par-5 13th and a double-bogey at the 16th after pulling a 7-iron into the pond.
His bogey at the last was icing on a poorly-baked cake.
Asked how disappointed he was, Fowler needed just one word before heading straight to the practice range.
That can happen when golf happens.