AUGUSTA, Ga. — Even before the Masters began, it was obvious Augusta National in April was nothing like it was in November. Far less clear was which course Justin Rose was playing Thursday.
Rose made seven birdies and an eagle during a torrid 10-hole stretch for a 7-under 65 and a four-shot lead, his lowest score at Augusta National in one of its toughest opening rounds.
It started with a nice hop off the mounds left of the green on the par-5 eighth that set up a 10-foot eagle. Only two of his birdie putts were outside 8 feet. He holed a 12-foot par putt on the one green he missed. Not bad for a 40-year-old from England playing for the first time in a month while resting an ailing back.
His 65 looked even better on a day so tough only 12 players broke par, and the average score was 74.5.
“Listen, I didn’t know where my game was going into this week,” Rose said. “I’ve been working hard. I could have played the last two tournaments, but I was really trying to prepare hard for this Masters.”
Twice a runner-up, including a playoff loss to Sergio Garcia four years ago, Rose tied a Masters record by taking at least a share of first-round lead for the fourth time. The other to do that was Jack Nicklaus. The difference? Nicklaus went on to win two of his six green jackets from that position.
Rose likes to say he’s only had one arm in the jacket.
Brian Harman, the last player to get into the 88-man field, and Hideki Matsuyama were wrapping up their rounds of 69 about the time Rose began on a course that was dry and crusty, on greens that were so fast there were splotches of brown.
Among those at 70 were former Masters champion Patrick Reed and Masters newcomer Will Zalatoris. Jordan Spieth overcame a triple bogey from the trees on No. 9 for a 71.
Missing were a slew of red numbers on the leaderboard in conditions so difficult that Garcia said after a 76, “I feel like I just came out of the ring with Evander Holyfield.”
Five months ago, in the first Masters held in November because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the turf was so soft that 53 players were under par after the opening round.
British Open champion Shane Lowry chipped from the back of the 15th green into the water in front of the green. He escaped with bogey and managed a 71. U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci hit a 60-foot putt from behind the ninth green that wound up 75 feet away on the other side.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson, who set the record last year at 20-under 268, failed to break par for the first time since the opening round in 2018. He three-putted for double bogey on the 18th for a 74.
“I feel sorry for the guys’ first Masters in November, and then they’re walking out there today wondering what the hell is going on,” Kevin Kisner said after …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports
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