AUGUSTA, GA – After a back injury and four weeks without competition, Justin Rose didn’t know what to expect from his game. All the former world No.1 knew was that he had been practicing hard and Augusta National is one of his favorite places on the planet. Sean Foley, his swing instructor, agreed.
“He said, buddy, I don’t know if you’re close or not, I just know you’re better,” Rose said.
Has he ever been. Rose overcame a slow start and played 9 under for a 10 hole stretch to shoot 7-under 65 and build a four-stroke lead over Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman after the first round of the 85e Mastery. Playing in the afternoon when the wind picked up, Rose broke her career record in the previous 58 laps at the famous Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones track by two strokes.
It was also the fourth time the 40-year-old Englishman held the lead after the first round, tying Jack Nicklaus for the tournament record.
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“This place and him, it’s just a love affair,” Foley said. “Inspiration is a powerful thing. We all have songs on our playlist that realign us. “
So far, although it is unrequited love. As the Golden Bear converted those 18-hole runs into six green jackets, Rose, who contested her first 13 Masters without missing a cup, experienced nothing but heartbreak, finishing twice second, behind Jordan Spieth. in 2015 and someone who owes the playoff loss to Sergio Garcia in 2017.
Rose made bogeys on the first and seventh holes and stood on two, but he never panicked. He drew a 5 wood for his second eighth par 5 shot that bounced off a mound and kicked 10 feet. He rolled into the eagle putt and stuck a tight 9-iron at No. 9 to make the 1-under turn. Rose shot a back-nine 30 which included canning a 25 foot putt at 10, an 8-6 foot iron at 12, a nifty wedge at 3 foot at 13, a green side bunker shot at 3 feet at 15, a 20 foot birdie at 16 and a corner at 4 feet at 17.
“It sounds easy when you put things together like this,” he says.
The last time Rose competed he was forced to pull out four holes in the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March due to back spasms and was a last-minute Players’ Championship scratch a week later. But Rose said her back was no longer a problem.
“It was a 7 day blockade and I just struggled to be able to get into the golf shot,” he explained.
Rose, who has slipped to 41st in the world and has not won since 2019, parted ways with Foley after a successful 11-year run in June. But the split turned out to be short-lived. They reunited in October and are in the early stages of trying to bring Rose back to the player who has 10 PGA Tour titles under her belt, an Olympic gold medal in 2016 and a FedEx Cup champion in 2018.
“It’s very simple, it’s about keeping your face as square to the road longer. Sometimes when my body is not in position my clubface gets a little too active from the impact, ”said Rose. “He knows what works for me and my game.”
What started this week as low expectations suddenly turned into realistic visions of yet another deal for a green jacket. How will Rose handle expectations in the future?
“That will be the thing the rest of the week,” he said. “I hope you can get away from your instincts a bit. Obviously, I have participated in these great tournaments several times, and I have one in my name, but we are looking for more.