Rose takes control of the masters while many top players fight
© Reuters. The master
By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – A precise Justin Rose tamed a windy Augusta National to maintain a four-shot lead after Thursday’s Masters first round while defending champion Dustin Johnson was among a number of top players who struggled in difficult conditions.
Rose, twice runners-up in the Masters, had done little to excite the crowd since he was two after seven holes, but made a scorching run to card a seven-under-par-65 player who was making his career marked at Augusta National.
This left the 40-year-old Englishman four shots ahead of the Japanese Hideki Matsuyama and the American Brian Harman. Former master Patrick Reed and 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson were among a group of four golfers who were one more shot off the lead.
“I felt that today’s conditions were not the right day to meet them and do your personal best,” said Rose. “It was pretty windy – well, windy enough to be tricky and obviously the greens are incredibly firm and fast.”
Rose, who retired from his last start a month ago with back problems, started his hot run on the par-5 eighth note, where he made an eagle after his approach shot ricocheted off a green slope at a height of 275 meters and moved nine feet away Cup settled away.
From there, Rose was locked up and all but three of his remaining 10 holes were birdwatched in one of the most brilliant golf stretches ever seen at the Masters.
“You can’t win the golf tournament today,” said Rose, who took the lead four times in the first round of the Masters. “Even with a 65 you can’t win it today. You can probably only lose it today.”
This Masters looks a lot more familiar as it’s back in its traditional April slot as the first Major of the year, while fans have been welcomed again, albeit in limited numbers and with protocols to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission reduce.
After a wild finish, Johnson (74) was nine shots behind the lead as he faced much tougher conditions compared to the toothless Augusta National layout on which he triumphed in record style five months ago.
Johnson was one under by the time he reached par 16 but bogeyed after his tee rolled off the green and carded a double bogey on the 18th after his tee shot to the right.
“Definitely a lot harder to play just because the golf course is difficult to play when the greens are tight and fast here,” said Johnson, whose 20-under-par-268 total was the lowest in Masters history last year was. “Then you add the wind today, it made playing really difficult.”
Former champion Jordan Spieth, who was a favorite at the Texas Open last week and fresh from his win, finished his roller coaster lap with a triple bogey, a bogey, three birdies and an eagle with a one-under-par 71
Spieth got into trouble on the ninth par-4 when, after a mistaken run, he tried to send his ball through a maze of trees but instead hit one of them and it bounced backwards, resulting in a seven.
The three-time major champion bounced back with a birdie at 10am and then prevailed against the 15th par-5 to save his round.
Bryson DeChambeau, whose attempt to overwhelm Augusta National last November when he was the pre-tournament favorite, made it into this year’s Masters after winning at Bay Hill last month but scratched his head again.
DeChambeau’s day began to untangle at the par-3 quarter, where he built a double bogey after finding a bush on his tee shot and then barely cutting it out. He added three more bogeys before a birdie on the 15th for a four-over-par 76.
World number two Justin Thomas, who finished fourth at the Masters in November and has warmed up since then, should rely on his stellar iron play to get into the mix, but instead three of his first seven holes on the way to a one -over-par bogeyed 73.
The Spanish number three in the world, Jon Rahm (72), whose turn it is five days after the birth of his first child, mixed two birdies with two bogeys.
Rory McIlroy (76) got off to a bad start with his last offer to complete the career grand slam when he carded his worst opening round at the Masters and even hit his father with a miss that led to one of his six bogies.
The day began when a clearly moved Lee Elder, who was the first black to compete in the Masters in 1975, was warmly welcomed when he joined Nicklaus and Gary Player as the new honorary starter for the 2021 tournament.
“I think it was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever seen or been a part of,” said Elder, who has limited mobility and has not taken a discount.