Shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday, just as Sergio Garcia’s sword fight with Justin Rose broke out in earnest and the Masters’ back nine was fully engaged, in the twosome just ahead, Rickie Fowler was doing this:
- Drive through the pine grove off No. 11 left rough; recovery shot off a gallery-mushed lie over the green; chip up and two putts for bogey.
A couple minutes later, Jordan Spieth was doing this:
- Driving his tee ball to brim off the front edge of No. 12 green and watching without emotion as its reverse spin rolled the ball pack into Rae’s Creek, a soggy tune he has sung before.
Just as Garcia was opening the door for Rose, Matt Kuchar, Charl Schwartzel and anyone else who wanting to make a run at this thing, the young American lions’ charge was over.
No, that’s not right. Their charge had never begun. Spieth, the world’s No. 6 player, shot 75, the same score he opened the championship with on Thursday, finished at 1 under. Fowler, the world’ No. 8 player, simply vanished, playing the back in in 40 en route to a 76 that also left him 1 under.
Fowler had gone into the final round a shot behind Garcia and Rose. Spieth was two shots back.
They both tied for 11th.
“I feel bad I went so downhill while Rickie was was still in it there, because it is tough when you don’t see the ball go in the hole,” Spieth said. “And when I was out of it, I was his biggest cheerleader. … I don’t think I helped him whatsoever on the round.”
“We fought through it great, fought through the week in the wind, getting a lot out of the round, making sure we stayed in the golf tournament,” Fowler said. “But I just didn’t hit the ball up and down or make the putts I needed to.”
Spieth, who put himself in strong position after a shaky first round, opened the day bogey-birdie-bogey and never seems to establish a rhythm. He lost four shots to par after making the turn — a bogey on No. 10, the watery double-bogey on No. 12 and another bogey on 14 — and appeared destined for his worse Masters round ever.
But he finished with three birdies in the final four holes, his 75 matching the highest score he’s ever recorded at Augusta National.
“Out here, distance control is so key,” Spieth said. “And I was two yards in the rough so many times today and it makes a huge difference on controlling the distance out of the rough. It’s a coin-flip. Is it going to jump or is it going to come out spinning? And I missed those coin flips four-, five-for five.”
While Garcia and Rose were at it shot-by-shot, Fowler was just playing for a top-10 finish, which seems in reach when he birdied No. 13 to get to 4 under, four shots behind the leaders with five holes to play. But there, a trapdoor opened with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 16, 17 and 18. Over the day, he had been under par for exactly one hole.
“Really, chipping and putting went sideways on me,” said Fowler, still seeking his first major title. “Every time I chipped it close, I missed the putt or I didn’t chip it close enough and I’d miss the putt. Somewhere (Saturday), I was able to fight through that from hitting the ball down, making some good key putts. I really didn’t hit it any worse than I did (Saturday).”
Where this leaves the duo entering the bulk of the season in unknowable, although playing their ways out of the year’s first major on a Sunday is not how anyone wants to come out of the spring.
But there are small positives along the way. As Spieth told CBS, “Fortunately I get to come back (to the Masters) for 50 years.”