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Several top stars flame out in Round 1 at the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- At first glance, Augusta National played right into the capable hands of some of the world's best golfers during Thursday's opening round of the 80th Masters Tournament.

There's defending champion Jordan Spieth right atop the leaderboard -- he certainly qualifies. Justin Rose is just a couple of strokes back -- he does, too. Same goes for Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia, each of whom enjoyed an impressive start to the year's first major championship.

Look a little deeper, though, and you'll find that most of the world's top players left the hallowed grounds with some bruised and battered egos.

Rickie Fowler had a cringe-worthy four bogeys, two doubles and a triple to shoot 80.

Patrick Reed limped to a disappointing 76.

Adam Scott matched that number, thanks to a back-nine 38.

Bubba Watson was 1 shot better overall, but closed with an inward 41.

Dustin Johnson shot a 73, which doesn't sound too rough until you consider he was on the course's hand-scored leaderboards before a back-nine 39.

And then there's Jason Day, whose 72 was a tale of two sides, opening with a 31 on the front, only to falter with an ugly 41 on the back.

If you're scoring at home -- an idea which would entail some heavy-duty addition -- that's six of the world's top 10 players who struggled mightily during the opening round, especially on the course's second nine holes.

"Golf's not an easy game," proclaimed Fowler, who was presumably also speaking for his talent-laden brethren.

That was largely the theme throughout this group. There was disappointment, but not depression; there was discouragement, but not despondency.

"You know what? To be dead honest with you, there's no sting. It's just one of those things," Watson tried to explain. "I know how tough it was and I've got to just somehow commit and hopefully hit the same quality shots and tomorrow guess right. That's a short answer for that."

"To be honest, I mean, I played great golf," said Day, echoing Watson's sentiment and taking it one step further. "If I went 41 on the front side and 31 on the back side, I'd be just celebrating. Obviously, it's just a number. I've got to understand that the next two days are going to be very difficult with the wind conditions. And 6 under is leading and I'm at even par. I've just got to slowly try to inch my way back into this tournament if I can, and be patient with myself and hopefully I'm there by Sunday."

Day, the world's No. 1-ranked player and a guy who has won each of his past two starts, quickly followed these words by issuing what might be the mantra of every superstar who has struggled at one of the game's biggest tournaments.

"It's a major championship. Things happen. And unfortunately it happened at the wrong time today. But it is what it is, and I've got to move on and push forward and try and get back in the tournament."

Scott, Day's fellow Aussie and Wednesday practice-round partner, admitted that he never quite felt comfortable during the first round.

"Right from the first hole, I didn't quite come out on my line," said the 2013 champion. "On the back foot from the get go. Nothing unusual coming here, but it was tough. I just didn't really hit it solid enough into the greens and I left myself grinding for par even when I was putting for birdie."

Rather than lament his own performance, Scott quickly offered his take on exactly why these types of rounds are both frustrating and familiar.

"That's why these majors are the best test, because you've got to be sharp," he said. "It's very hard to play just off and be right there. I just need to come out tomorrow with the full belief that I'm just going to stripe it right down the line with my iron play."

Disappointment, but not depression. Discouragement, but not despondency.

This was the theme of the day for some of the game's best players who struggled at one of the world's most devious venues.

Perhaps it was Fowler who best summarized the day.

"I made a couple of bad mistakes, caught a few bad breaks," he said.

Fowler then shrugged, offered his first attempt at a smile since walking off the final green and explained, "It's golf."