Justin Rose’s stunning first round made a wickedly hard Augusta National look welcoming
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Remember that time you hacked your first four shots, holed your fifth out of the rough and from the second tee to the house you could do no wrong? Justin Rose knows the feeling, too. He knows what it’s like to turn things around.
You remember Rose, and not just because he won the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion and a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics. (For England!) Rose is a regular presence on our screens because TV golf broadcasts can’t get enough of him — during commercial breaks. Here he is, eating ice cream for MasterCard. (You want to talk about a spot that doesn’t work? That spot doesn’t work.) Here he is providing voice-over for Morgan Stanley.
(Why does the British accent sound so . . . authoritative.) With the disappearance of Matt Kuchar as golf’s great corporate TV spokesman, Rose has stepped in to fill the void. But the thing we haven’t seen of late from him is . . . his golf.
And then came the 8th hole of his first round in this 85th Masters, and Rose’s 16th. Through seven holes, playing with long-reigning British Open champion Shane Lowry and Kuchar himself, Rose was two over. Not a shocker. His last 72-hole score was 293 at the World Golf Championship in late February.
Rose — 40, still tall, still slender, the top shirt button still buttoned — batted third off the tee of the par-5 8th. He pulled his second shot, a screaming 5-wood, off one of those crazy mounds that guard the left side of that deep green. His ball bounded to the right, leaving him with about a 10-footer for an eagle 3. In it went.
It was his version of your hole-out on one, way back when. The fire was started. He torched the property, from the 8th green, one of the highest elevations on the course, to the scorer’s room. You could say he did not miss a shot. The card is a thing of beauty.
Go slow here, to absorb it in full. Picture the holes, and the greens, in your mind’s eye.
He made a birdie on 9, with that crazy sloping green.
A birdie on 10, with that crazy sloping green.
A par on 11 (but nobody makes birdie there).
A birdie on 12, with a green the size of a Hershey bar.
A birdie on 13, after laying up his second shot on the par-5.
A par on 14.
A birdie on 15, after playing his third shot from a greenside bunker.
A birdie on 16 (with the pin close to the clown’s-nose Sunday position).
A birdie on 17 (stiffed the second).
A two-putt par on 18.
As the First Golfer likes to say, C’mon, man!
It was the damnedest 65 you could ever hope to see, on a day when the greens were brown in places and the course was fast most everywhere. Rose played the back nine in 30. He played his final 11 holes in nine under.
Remember in November, when former World No. 1 Tiger Woods made a 10 on the par-3 12th and played the final six holes in five under? Yes, the course was soft. Still, it was incredible. Mind-blowing, really. Well, what Rose did on Thursday, five months later, is every bit as incredible, if not more so. Because on Thursday afternoon this Augusta National course did not look like one that would be producing any second-nine 30s.
Rose’s opening 65 made him the low man by four. Your leader, Justin Rose. It says here if he can play the next 54 holes in three under, he’ll get himself a prized coat.
The two golfers in second place with 69s, Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama, had mid-morning Thursday tee times, before things got really crispy. Fine scores, yes. But not in the same league as what Rose did.
This round of 65 began, in earnest, with a good bounce and a good putt, on No. 8.
“It maybe settled me down, if I’m honest,” Rose said. “I know two over through seven is not the end of the world. But you’re going in the wrong direction. You can’t win the golf tournament today. Even with a 65 you can’t win it today. You can only probably lose it today.”
Well, he was the day’s winner, anyway.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael.Bamberger@Golf.com