Justin Rose. File Pic
April 9: Justin Rose could not find a birdie for the first seven holes and then had seven birdies and an eagle in the last hole to take a four-shot lead in the first round of the 85th Masters Championship. It also equalled the second largest first round lead at the Masters in Georgia, Texas.
The key to a good score on the day, which also had slight winds reaching up to 20 miles per hour at one stage, was the second shot. With the greens very firm and quick, it was vital to be on the correct side of the pin and Rose did just that as Hideki Matsuyama (69) did that before him. Rose managed that for a long streak and holed some incredible putts for birdies and some crucial pars, too.
Long before Rose rose up to the top of the leaderboard, Brian Harman and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama were on top with 3-under 69 each.
On an interesting and tough first day, when the greens were firm and rolling really fast, there were just three cards in the 60s and only two past champions returned with under par scores – Patrick Reed (70) and Jordan Spieth (71). The latter fought back despite a crippling triple bogey on the front nine. Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot 2-over 74.
After the first seven holes, for which he was 2-over, Rose could hardly put a foot wrong. He parred just three of the remaining 11 holes and it was an eagle on Par-5 eighth that set him off and he blazed thereafter with seven birdies in the last 10 holes and was 9-under for the last 11 holes.
Long before Rose took centre-stage, Japanese star Matsuyama, who admitted to be inspired by the success of teenaged compatriot, Tsubasa Kajitani, who won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last week.
Matsuyama, 29, also had an eagle on Par-5 eighth and two birdies and his lone bogey came on 17th. Harman had four birdies against a bogey on ninth.
Adding excitement was Tommy Fleetwood who recorded an ace on No. 16 and it was his first ace on the PGA TOUR. Fleetwood finished the day with a card of 74 that tied him 30th alongside the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, veteran Bernhard Langer and Charl Schwartzel among others.
Matsuyama apart, the Asian challenge also featured a strong start from Korea’s Si Woo Kim who carded a 71 after dropping some late bogeys to share eighth place.
Matsuyama took full advantage of the par-5s, making birdies on second and 13th and eagles the eighth from 30 feet. His 69 was his eighth successive par-or-better score at Augusta.
Things however did not go well for Kim’s fellow Korean Sungjae Im, Tied-second last year, in November, stumbled to a 77 which included a quadruple bogey 9 on the par-5, 15th hole where he found water twice. Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, tied seventh last year, came home in 79.
Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, shot his best score in 59 rounds at the Masters, which gave him the second largest first round lead or co-lead after
Craig Wood, who led by five in 1941.
Rose, whose most recent of his 10 PGA TOUR victories came at the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open, was T2 in 2015 and 2nd in 2017 Masters.
Harman entered this week after two fine performances – T-3 at the PLAYERS and T-5 at WGC-Dell Matchplay.
Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, winner of last week’s Valero Texas Open, fought back from a triple-bogey 7 on the ninth hole for a 1-under 71. Spieth who was 1-under after eight holes, triple bogeyed the ninth after straying way off the fairway and into the trees to be 2-over after nine. He rallied from there with a birdie on 10th and a streak of pars and an eagle on par-5 15th to finish in red numbers at 1-under 71.