AUGUSTA • Billy Horschel was the victim of a bizarre incident when his ball blew off the green into a pond as he prepared to putt at the 15th green at the Masters on Saturday.
His third shot, a chip at the par-five, trickled down to within 13 feet of the hole, where he marked his ball to have it cleaned for his putt. But after replacing his ball, he watched in dismay as it started rolling down the slope and into a watery grave.
Instead of a birdie, he took a bogey. It was that sort of a third round on Saturday, when ill winds put the gust in Augusta National.
"It's so brutally difficult out there. There are no birdie opportunities and it's just a scramble all day," said 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia.
"The greens are so, so tough. They're so fast. It's blustery conditions. It's just impossible to really control the ball."
Lightning-fast greens and tough pin positions combined with blustery conditions that struck with flag-stiffening force to play havoc with the game's greatest shotmakers.
South African Louis Oosthuizen said of his one-under 71: "It feels like 66. It was a grind. There wasn't one easy shot I had."
It was as if the hardest challenges in several types of courses were assembled just to break the hearts of green jacket hopefuls.
"In links golf we play in this type of wind, but the style of golf is very different, whereas this is like an amalgamation of the toughest forms of golf all rolled into one," said 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose of England.
"You're dealing with three or four-yard landing spots out here and to judge that in this wind is very difficult, almost impossible, I suppose, at times."
No one faced a bigger challenge than Horschel.
The rules of golf are unyielding and severe, and he had no choice but to take a penalty stroke at the 15th. He dropped his ball from almost the same spot as he had played his third, but this time he was playing five. He then got up-and-down for bogey.
"I didn't have my scuba gear to play it from the water," joked the American, who signed for a 73 for a four-over 220 total.
"It's bad luck. Nothing like that has ever happened to me in the past that I can remember. It's not the rules officials' fault, it's not Augusta's fault, it's nobody's fault for that happening."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS