AUGUSTA — Rickie Fowler didn’t make it to the top of the Masters leader board Thursday, but he had the most interesting round of the first day.
The 24-year-old with one PGA Tour win started the front nine and the back nine with a double bogey but made up for it with four birdies and an eagle to finish tied for third with a 4-under 68.
“I played 16 holes really well,” Fowler said. “I definitely challenged my short game today. Chipping and putting is a good thing to have around this place so it’s good to know it’s there.”
With the round, Fowler became the first player to post a round in the 60s that included two double bogeys at the Masters since Raymond Floyd in 1992. Fowler followed up both of his double-bogeys with birdies to stop the bleeding quickly.
“I’m usually pretty good with bounce-backs. (Those birdies) just happened at the right time to calm myself down,” he said. “There are probably some people who were laughing at that (up and down card).”
Fowler has played in two previous Masters, finishing 27th in 2012 and 38th in 2011. He watched friend Bubba Watson win the tournament in a playoff last year and celebrated the victory with Watson into the night, he said.
“That gave me a kick in the butt to go win a golf tournament, which I did at Quail Hollow,” Fowler said.
Tiger Woods shot a 70 on Thursday to finish four shots off the lead and send an ominous message to the field. Woods shot a first-round 70 when he previously won the tournament in 1997, 2001 and 2002.
“It’s a good start,” he said. “Some years, some guys shot 65 starting out here. But, right now, I’m only four back and I’m right there.”
Thursday was a good scoring day as overcast skies and little wind kept the course from drying out and speeding up too much.
“It was benign,” he said. “Overall, I think the biggest challenge today was just the speed of the greens. They just weren’t quite there. They looked (fast), but just weren’t quite putting it.”
Watson, who carded a 75 in the first round of his Masters title defense, echoed Woods’ sentiments about the greens, which were not kind to him.
“I had four three-putts. Well, it’s really three three-putts and one was on the fringe, so I can’t count it as a three-putt,” he said. “I never got the speed right, never got the ball to the hole. They were slower than what I was expecting. The balls weren’t rolling out like they normally do over the past years.
“It’s golf. There’s going to be bad days and good days. I hit the ball really well. I can’t complain about my ball striking.”
Sharon Holzwarth made her first trip to the Masters on Thursday, and by 11 a.m., she had made her presence felt at Augusta National. Holzwarth, who retired from a job in the accounting office at Penn State University in December, stopped an errant drive by Ian Poulter with her right hip on the left side of the first hole.
“It stung,” Holzwarth said. “I might have a scar from that, a black and blue mark.”
The ball, which hit Holzwarth on a bounce approximately 280 yards from the tee, came to rest in the spectator area, forcing Poulter (who did not ask the patrons if anyone had been struck by his shot) to punch out from underneath Augusta’s many pine trees.
Jamie Donaldson became the 24th player in Masters history to ace a hole when he carded a 1 on the 180-yard, par-3 No. 6. Last year, Adam Scott and Bo Van Pelt each aced No. 16, but No. 6 has not been finished in one shot since 2004, when Chris DiMarco, uncle of former South Carolina fullback Patrick DiMarco, did it.