With his colorful, modern attire, Rickie Fowler is hard to miss on the golf course. At times Thursday, the 24-year-old star was all over the grounds at Augusta National Golf Club but ended up front and center in the interview room after shooting 4-under-par 68.
An up-and-down round had Fowler in some unusual places, but every time he had a setback, he responded with the kind of play that makes a decent round great.
“I’m usually pretty good at bounce-backs,” said Fowler, who was tied for fourth, two strokes behind the leaders. “It was nice to kind of turn around after making a double and making birdie to calm myself down. Definitely challenged my short game today and got a lot out of that.”
He got into trouble right off the bat, double bogeying the first hole when his approach put him in a bad spot – long right on a back-left pin position.
But he bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 second. He closed out the front nine with birdies at Nos. 6, 8 and 9 to make the turn in 34.
Fowler described his first hole as a bad double bogey, but said his second double of the day – at No. 10 – was “a really good 6, if there is such a thing.”
But he quickly put that hole behind him, lacing a 5-iron from 215 yards to 18 feet on the tough 505-yard par-4 11th for another birdie. He eagled the par-5 15th and then made an unlikely birdie after an errant drive at the 17th, squeezing a six-iron through a 6-foot window with a shot that had playing partner Jason Day shaking his head.
“After he hit that drive, he said, ‘As long as I’ve got a swing, I’ve got a shot,’ ” Day said. “He had a shot and made birdie, so good for him. He really enjoys going out there and playing and interacting with fans.”
Fowler became the first player to make two double bogeys and still shoot in the 60s at the Masters since Ray Floyd did it in 1992.
Fowler is close friends with defending champion Bubba Watson. He walked with Watson during the playoff last year and the moment served as inspiration.
“Seeing him do what he did, being there with him and being able to share that moment and on through the night – it was definitely special and gave me a little bit of a kick in the butt to go win a golf tournament,” Fowler said. “And I ended up winning at Quail Hollow not too long after. It made me appreciate the Masters a little bit more.”