AS IT STANDS -7 Rose; -3 Matsuyama, Harman; -2 Zalatoris, Simspon, Bezuidenhout, Reed; -1 Kim, Kokrak, Lowry, Hatton, Spieth. SELECTED OTHERS +2 D. Johnson, MacIntyre, Fleetwood; +4 McIlroy, DeChambeau; +6 Westwood
Forget the azaleas and the dogwoods. It’s Rose who’s blooming the brightest following the first round of the 2021 Masters.
English ace Justin carded a sublime seven-under 65 to race into a four-shot lead after day one Augusta National, continuing his impressive track record around the iconic Georgia course.
The former US Open champion recovered from being two-over after seven, playing his next 11 holes in nine-under, to put clear daylight between him and nearest challengers Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama.
This is the sixth Masters round Rose has either led or co-led – the most of any player in tournament history who is yet to win a Green Jacket. He has also matched six-time champion Jack Nicklaus’ record of four leads or co-leads after the opening round.
Only Craig Wood, who led by five after day one in 1941, has had a larger advantage after the first 18 holes.
His performance marked a sudden and somewhat surprising return to form for Rose who has battled issues with his game as well as a niggling back complaint of late.
Nonetheless, he is more than happy with his position in the tournament
"I've had some situations in my career that should stand me in good stead," he said. "But I think to keep the expectations relatively low even in this situation is not a bad thing for me for the remainder of the week and just keep it one shot at a time, keep committing.
"On this golf course, you can never get ahead of yourself on. We've seen it many times around here.
"But it's all about commitment, and I think it's about enjoying it. I'm obviously walking the walk with Clarky [caddie David Clark] and just trying to really enjoy being out here."
Rose' fast start was in stark contrast to the pre-tournament favourites.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson could only manage a two-over 74, whilst Bryson DeChambeau struggled to a four-over 76, the same score posted by career grand slam-chasing Rory McIlroy.
"It was just one of those days where I wasn't very efficient with my scoring,” conceded McIlroy. “But I hung in there, hit some good shots coming in. Could have made a couple more birdies, but it's not as if anyone is going really low out there.”
Except, that is, for Justin Rose.