Graeme McDowell knows he needs three rounds in the 60s to win the Masters after three-putting four times on the back nine in a frustrating 74.
The US Open champion bogeyed the fifth but birdied the sixth and ninth to move to turn for home on one-under par before it all went pear-shaped on the greens.
Playing with Tiger Woods (71) and Robert Allenby (75), McDowell’s woes started when he overhit a chip to the 10th and three-putted from no more than six feet for a double bogey six.
Having struggled to get the ball to the hole on the front nine, he was too aggressive on the homeward run and three-putted another three times, taking 36 putts in total to finish the day joint last for putting with Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
“A little frustrating day, actually,” McDowell said. “I played pretty well. Then I three-putted 10, three-putted 13 (for par), three-putted 14, three-putted 15 (for par). And that was kind of my day summed up right there.
“I was in control of the ball pretty well. But when I three-putted 13 it knocked the stuffing out of me a little bit. I made a few ragged swings coming in.
“It was frustrating because I did everything right, put the ball in positions, just couldn’t quite get it going on the greens. And if I get two of those four three‑putts I’m actually at level par and I’m happy with that. But two‑over’s a little frustrating the way I hit it today.”
McDowell knows that Augusta’s greens can be treacherous and he accepted that his pace was poor.
He said: “I hit it on the shelf on 13, left it in decent position. Blew it by, blew it by, made about a six‑footer come back for my 3‑putt. And two good shots to 15, leave it short and miss it. And it’s frustrating.
“I mean 10 - I missed the fairway right there and played the smart shot, hit it front left, slightly heavy handed pitch, six feet by, blew it six feet by, missed the one back. So I mean compounding errors. I just was a bit ragged on that back nine, especially on the greens.”
The course was set up for low scoring with many accessible pins and McDowell was not surprised to see his close friend Rory McIlroy take advantage.
“It’s a hell of a score, don’t get me wrong, but the pins were setup for scoring, the fairways are running quite slowly, which really helps around the greens, because the ball stays on the up slopes.
“There’s no doubt that that was on today. But you have to play great golf. You have to hole putts and you know if you got out of position it was a difficult golf course. But it was there for the taking today.”
Addressing his putting issuesThe pace is my problem today. Pace is my problem. The first nine holes I could barely get a putt to the hole. And then I sort of overreacted and started blasting everything on the back nine.
“It’s funny, this golf course, you get it below the hole into the grain and they’re incredibly slow. Just don’t tell anybody in a Green Jacket that I said that.
“You get above the hole down grain and they’re ridiculously quick. There’s such a big differential.
“And I felt like maybe the first seven or eight holes I left myself generally below the hole and I couldn’t get it there and then on the back nine I just started smoking everything, so but it’s a bit disappointing.”
Tied for 64th, nine shots behind McIlroy, McDowell knows he can’t afford another bad day if he is to haul himself back into contention.
“I just can’t afford any mediocre rounds from here on in. I’ve just got to play good now this weekend. I got three rounds ahead of me, and I’ve just got to shoot in the 60s all three times to have a chance.”