Justin Rose refused to “hit the panic button” as an eagle at the eighth atoned for an uncertain start and began his remarkable charge into a four-shot lead on day one at The Masters.
Just a month ago, Rose was a doubtful starter at Augusta National when he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a back injury, which also kept him sidelined for The Players Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
He looked in for a long day when he slipped to two over par after seven holes, but an eagle at the eighth sparked a sensational run of scoring as he powered clear of the field over the course of the back nine.
Rose defied some of the most difficult conditions seen at Augusta in recent years, making four birdies in five holes from the ninth and reeling off three straight at 15, 16 and 17 before a par at the last capped one of the all-time great opening rounds at The Masters.
“That eagle maybe settled me down if I’m honest,” said Rose, who has now held the first-round lead at the Masters four times. “I kind of knew being two over through seven is not the end of the world, but also knew you’re going in the wrong direction.
“You can’t win the golf tournament today, and even with a 65 you can’t win it today, but you can only probably lose it today, obviously. And I was very aware of that being a couple over through seven. I didn’t hit the panic button, but I reset just prior to that and thought if I can get myself back around even par, that would be a good day’s work.
“So obviously the eagle got me straight back in there, and with a birdie straight away at the ninth, suddenly I turned in one under and I could feel like I could actually leave the front nine behind as a job well done and move to the back nine and try and build a score.
“From that point on I kind of was aware that the lead was only three under, and if I played a decent back nine it was basically a very good day’s work. And then I just got on a great run and was just trying to stay out of my own way and just try to get it to the clubhouse and keep doing what I was doing.
“I putted the ball beautifully and read the greens unbelievably well. If you had said 65 to me walking up the eighth hole, I’d have said ‘no chance, this course is playing a little too tricky for that’. But it’s incredible, and a good reminder that you just never know what can happen out there, just to stick with it on the golf course.”
Rose’s 65, in his 16th appearance at Augusta, was two lower than his career-best and came as a surprise to the former US Open champion considering how firm and fast the course was playing, with only 12 of the 88-man field under par on the first day.
“I’ve played this course many, many times and my best to date was 67,” he added. “I felt like the conditions today were not the day to go hit them and have your personal best out there. It was windy enough to be tricky, and obviously the greens are incredibly firm and fast.
“The pin placements were fair, certainly not easy, but fair, and if you did hit the right shot at the right time, you could take advantage. But I didn’t feel like today was the day for a 65 if I’m honest.”
Rose also paid tribute to swing coach Sean Foley, who he reunited with towards the end of last year after “falling into some interesting habits” that contributed to a run of five missed cuts in seven events last summer.
“I was doing a few different things during the first lockdown phase when we were away from playing golf, and I definitely learned a few things, but learning something isn’t necessarily helpful,” he said. “You’ve got to learn what works for you individually, and there’s no one who knows that better than Sean for me.
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“I think I really honed in on his approach recently in the last sort of year or two, as well. I wasn’t playing well and my swing didn’t look good at all, and I was falling into some interesting habits. And I think that, you know, I wanted to kind of get back to working in a good direction and wanted to have his support out here on Tour.
“Sean is obviously a wonderful friend of mine and one of the greatest people I know, and it’s just really good to be back on board and working hard together and kind of committed to seeing if we could turn the ship around a bit.”
The Masters – Live
April 9, 2021, 2:00pm
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