AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – Billy Horschel felt blown away.
His second shot Saturday on No. 15 at the Masters came to rest 10 paces onto the green. He marked the ball, put it back down and took his time sizing up the putt. Suddenly, a gust of wind kicked up. The ball rolled down a slope, off the false front and plunked back into the pond.
"I didn't have my scuba gear," he said.
A windbreaker would've worked better.
Five minutes, one penalty shot and one animated discussion later, what could've been an eagle wound up as a bogey for Horschel. It was all par for the course on a day when gusts reaching 30 mph were the only things roaring through the famous Georgia pines.
"I did a really good job of maintaining some composure," said Horschel, who made headlines by ripping the USGA about greens at Chambers Bay at last year's U.S. Open. "It wasn't their fault. They can't do anything about it."
The players felt pretty helpless, too.
Long before Horschel's debacle, Justin Thomas took the putter back for a 7-foot tester to save par on No. 7. A gust of wind picked up just after he hit it. A few seconds later, he was standing behind the comebacker – 40 feet away on the opposite side of the hole.
"Every shot is just guessing and hitting and praying," said Kevin Kisner, who played alongside Thomas.
Louis Oosthuizen was one of the few who handled the wind, shooting 71.
"Probably feels like a 66," said Oosthuizen, the 2012 runner-up.
Oosthuizen said he was aiming-left edge putts outside the right of the cup to compensate for a north-northwest wind that blew steadily in the 20 mph range most of the day.
Patrick Reed played two times as much break as he normally would – and made his 8-foot birdie putt on No. 13. That didn't prevent a 3-over 75, a decent score in these conditions.
How bad was the wind?
"It's the first time I've ever stepped up here on 12 and the wind felt the same as the rest of the golf course," Reed said of the par 3 in the heart of Amen Corner, where wacky winds are the norm.
They're just as vexing on the tee box of the par-3 fourth – a 240-yard hole set on the west side of the golf course that's a monster on a calm day. There was a steady right-to-left wind that fooled players into aiming at the green, only to watch the ball balloon skyward and come up short, or left, or both.
Playing in the final group, Jordan Spieth clanged his tee shot off the metal in the stands to the left of the green. Not to be outdone, Rory McIlroy followed by pinballing his shot off nearly the same spot.
"I hit a 3-wood onto No. 4 and it caught a gust and ended up short of the bunker," said Larry Mize, the 1987 champion. "Not much you can do out there."
The 57-year-old Mize opened the day with three straight birdies. He wound up with a 78 and said he couldn't remember a three-day stretch at Augusta where the winds had been so consistently steady. Saturday was the worst.
The toughest part of the course?
"The first 18 holes, I think," Mize said.
Horschel wasn't laughing. He said his arm-waving discussion with rules officials on the 15th green wasn't anything too bad – mostly about the tournament's success in getting the course "on a fine line," especially considering the winds.
"It's on a fine line but it's fair," said Horschel, whose 73 could have been a shot or more better. "An unfortunate situation, bad luck. But I think the golfing gods – I think they owe me one."
Not only him.
Playing his first Masters, Kisner opened the third round with two birdies over the first six holes. He wound up shooting 76, and compared these to British Open conditions, "but on a golf course you don't want to play in those conditions."
What to do after a day like that?
"You go home and have a beer, sit on the couch and laugh at everyone else," he said.
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