His 7-under-par 65 for a four-shot lead came on a day when almost everybody played defense and nobody figured to do anything luminous, but then here came the 40-year-old Rose with a 10-hole stretch right out of a dream. From No. 8 to No. 17, he packed an eagle, seven birdies and two pars. When he finished, he almost matched the five-shot lead Craig Wood had after Thursday at the 1941 Masters (which Wood won eventually), a first-round lead never since equaled.
Rose settled for a par on No. 18 and remained four shots ahead of Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman, five ahead of Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and youngsters Will Zalatoris and Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Yet even with that mere closing par, the 2013 U.S. Open champion had the best of his 59 Masters rounds and maybe the best from among his 71 major tournaments. They always say you can’t win the Masters on Thursday, but apparently you sure can try.
“I putted the ball beautifully and read the greens unbelievably well,” Rose told reporters in Augusta, Ga., after the first day of his 16th Masters across 18 years. “If you had said to me walking up the eighth hole, I’d have said I had no chance [at a 65], this course is playing a little too tricky for that. But it’s incredible. It’s a good reminder that you just never know what can happen out there, just to stick with it on the golf course.”
Long since hurrying to visibility at age 17 as an amateur in the 1998 British Open, Rose has been around long enough that he has held three other first-round Masters leads: in 2004 alone, in 2007 in a tie with Brett Wetterich and in 2008 in a tie with eventual champion Trevor Immelman. He dueled Sergio Garcia on the Sunday of the 2017 Masters before succumbing on the first hole of a playoff when Rose got stuck behind a magnolia, as can happen. Yet he has never led in the manner in which he led after the 65, after a stretch that in ways soared more than his 2013 U.S. Open title at Merion near Philadelphia.
He reached No. 8 at 2 over par, yearning in the muddle with the others. His year had been crummy. His ranking had slipped to No. 41. His previous event had been the Arnold Palmer in Orlando in March, and his back forced him to withdraw from that. Then he knocked it from 273 yards to nine feet to eagle, from 147 to four feet to birdie No. 9, from 191 to 26 feet to birdie No. 10, to six feet to birdie the par-3 No. 12, from 68 feet to three feet to birdie the par-5 No. 13, from the sand to six feet to birdie the par-5 No. 15, to 14 feet to birdie the par-3 No. 16, and from 148 yards to five feet to birdie the par-4 No. 17.
“I knew 2 over through seven is not the end of the world,” Rose said, “but also knew you’re going in the wrong direction. … So obviously the eagle, boom, straight back in there, and I guess almost just piggybacking with a birdie straightaway at No. 9, suddenly I turned in 1 under, and I could feel like I could actually leave the front nine as a job well done and kind of move on to the back nine and build a score.”
So he went from a job well done to a job spectacularly done, and as he went along, the words of his competitors served as meaningful background music telling of the hardness for all but one as the Masters reassembled five months after its rare autumn turn of November. Dustin Johnson, who won that event at 20 under par last year and shot 2-over 74 with a closing double bogey Thursday, told reporters in Augusta he found the course “playing definitely a lot tougher just because, when the greens are firm and fast here, the golf course plays difficult. Then you add the wind in today, it made it play really difficult.”
Reed, the 2018 Masters champion, told reporters: “Yeah, I’ll definitely accept a 2-under-par round,” which he did produce. Si Woo Kim, who shot a commendable 1-under 71, said, “It’s really different [from] five months ago.”
Jon Rahm, who shot 72, said: “It was a battle. … There was not one moment where you felt relaxed or where I felt relaxed out there.”
Bezuidenhout, the promising 26-year-old South African, said, “Like now there’s some places where you can’t even hold a green with a 7-iron in your hand where in November you’re going for flags with a 4-iron in your hand.”
Brooks Koepka, the four-time major winner who shot 74, said, “There’s not much grass on a couple of those greens.”
Harman said, “You get down around Amen Corner, and it’s so hard to read that wind. If you’ve got an in-between number, it’s easy to be uncommitted.”
And Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion who always seems a reasonable choice to win, said: “Guys are going to shoot themselves out of the golf tournament on Day One. I knew it would be tough today. I didn’t know it would be — we’d be dealing with gusty winds like we were.”
It was tough, for all but one dude. “Yeah,” Rose said, “I didn’t feel like today was the day for a 65, if I’m honest.”
Jordan Spieth finishes at 1-under in final group, six behind leader Justin Rose
Playing in the final group, Jordan Spieth parred his last three holes to finish the first round at 1-under. That represented a very good result on a day when most of the field struggled, and after he had made a triple-bogey at No. 9.
The 2015 Masters winner, Spieth ended up tied for fourth on Thursday. That still left him six shots behind Justin Rose, who blistered the course with six back-nine birdies en route to a 7-under round of 65.
Rose, who tees off at 9:36 a.m. Friday, walked away four shots clear of the field. In second, at 3-under, were Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama, with four players at 2-under, including 2018 champ Patrick Reed. Spieth was tied with five players.
On a day when Augusta National played firm and fast, an even round was good for a tie for 13th place. Among those who shot 4-over were Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, 2017 champ Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett, while Jason Day and Zach Johnson finished at 5-over and Lee Westwood carded a 6-over round.
Joining Rose on Friday will be Shane Lowry (1-under) and Matt Kuchar (6-over). Harman tees off at 12:12 p.m., while Matsuyama starts at 1 p.m.
Spieth tees off Friday at 10:54 a.m., joined by his Thursday partners Collin Morikawa (1-over) and Cameron Smith (2-over). Playing in the final second-round group, Reed is set for a 2 p.m. start, joined by Daniel Berger (3-over) and Paul Casey (1-over).
Friday’s forecast calls for the possibility of a stray shower or thunderstorm in Augusta, Ga., with highs in the low 80s.
Bryson DeChambeau shoots 4-over 76
The good news for Bryson DeChambeau was that after a horrid start to the Masters, he played the final six holes of the first round at 1-under.
There was still the matter of that start, which left the 2020 U.S. Open winner at 5-over through 12. The opening stretch included a double bogey at the par-3 fourth hole when the PGA Tour’s longest driver needed three shots to get on the green.
DeChambeau finished his opening round 11 shots behind leader Justin Rose (4-under).
When the pandemic-delayed 2020 Masters was set to be played in November, DeChambeau said, “I’m looking at it as a par-67 for me.” At this point, shooting a par round of 72 tomorrow appears to be a more than worthy goal.
A decade after collapsing, Rory McIlroy is still trying to get off the deck at the Masters
Rory McIlroy has been right where he was Thursday afternoon, standing in the middle of a fairway at Augusta National Golf Club, hands covering his face, looking as if he would rather be at the bottom of a tributary of Rae’s Creek, which is precisely where his ball resided. The Masters can burrow its way into the deepest, darkest crevices of the mind and lodge itself there. A CT scan of McIlroy’s head almost assuredly would reveal its logo right there.
A decade ago, a strutting, bouncing, curly-haired kid from Northern Ireland carried a four-shot lead into Sunday at the Masters, and then imploded with a nowhere-to-hide 80. To say that the 31-year-old husband and father hasn’t recovered is too simplistic, because he won his very next start at a major championship, because he was the No. 1 player in the world as recently as last summer, because his talent is obvious and enormous.
But McIlroy now has a history at Augusta, and it isn’t entirely palatable. It is annually relevant, because if he were to win there, he would join the most elite group in the history of the sport: those to win all four majors. That’s golfing royalty: Tiger and Jack and Hogan and Sarazen and Player.
Jordan Spieth back at 1-under after chip-in eagle at 15
Jordan Spieth was at 1-under through eight before disaster struck. He posted a triple-bogey at No. 9 to balloon his score to 2-over.
It’s taken six holes since, but the 2015 Masters winner is back at 1-under after making an eagle at No. 15. He chipped in for the well-received result, on a shot that likely would have run well past the hole had it not found the bottom of the cup.
Spieth had previously made birdie at 10, meaning that he played holes 8 through 10 at birdie-triple-birdie. Following his eagle, he was still six shots back of tournament leader Justin Rose but enjoying a better day than most at Augusta.
Justin Rose finishes at 7-under, four shots ahead of field
If you don’t think Justin Rose ran circles around the field Thursday, just look at his scorecard.
You’ll find circles, as in denotations for birdies, under holes No. 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17. And a double-circle — i.e., an eagle — at No. 8.
That barrage more than helped Rose overcome a couple of bogey squares through the first seven holes and gave him a 7-under round of 65. Perhaps most impressively, that put him four shots ahead of anyone else, with little evidence the first-round margin would be dented.
In addition to the two players at 3-under, Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama, all but one of the players at 2-under and 1-under when Rose finished his round were already in the clubhouse. That put him at least seven shots ahead of everyone still on the course except for fellow Englishman Tyrell Hatton (1-under).
Assuming no one does get within four shots of Rose, he will tie for the second-largest lead after one round in Masters history. In 1941, Craig Wood led by five shots after 18 holes.
According to the PGA Tour, Rose’s six rounds at the Masters after which he was the leader or co-leader are the most of anyone who has yet to win the tournament. The 40-year-old, whose 2013 U.S. Open title stands as his only major win, finished second at Augusta in 2015 and 2017.
Tommy Fleetwood deals an ace at No. 16
Tommy Fleetwood wasn’t having the best round through 15 holes, but with one sweet swing he gave himself reason to smile.
The hirsute Englishman drained his tee shot at the par-3 16th for a hole-in-one. The ball landed below the hole and took a few hops while heading straight for glory, much to the delight of those in attendance at Augusta.
That left Fleetwood at 2-over for his round after he had bogeyed the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 11th holes. He also hit a hole-in-one at his most recent tournament, last month’s World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Justin Rose on birdie rampage, now 7-under through 17
Augusta National is playing tough today for nearly everyone — except Justin Rose.
The English veteran has gotten red-hot in the first round and after yet another birdie at 17, was at 7-under with a four-shot lead over his closest pursuer.
Remarkably, Rose started the day 2-over, with two bogeys through seven holes. He then made an eagle at No. 8 and proceeded to go on a birdie rampage, making them at 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17.
Just a stunning display by the 40-year-old former U.S. Open winner.
Bryson DeChambeau 5-over through 11
Dropping a stroke at a nearly every-other-hole rate is no way to go through life at the Masters, and suddenly Bryson DeChambeau finds himself 10 shots off the lead.
The burly big-hitter posted a double at No. 4 and then bogeyed the fifth, eighth and 11th holes, without a birdie to mitigate the damage. At 5-over at that point, he was well behind the pace set by leader Justin Rose, who went to 5-under after a birdie at the 15th.
DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Open last year at Winged Foot, has yet to post a top-20 finish at the Masters. He has some work to do to break that trend, let alone sniff the lead.
Justin Rose takes sole possession of lead at 4-under
Justin Rose was at 2-over through seven holes. Six holes later, he was at 4-under and in sole possession of first place.
The 40-year-old Brit caught fire immediately after his second bogey at the seventh. He made an eagle at 8 — with the help of a terrific bounce off a hill to the left of the green — then birdied 9, 10, 12 and 13.
Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open winner, is seeking his first Masters victory after some close calls in the past, most notably second-place finishes in 2015 and 2017. He also finished second at the British Open in 2018 and third at the PGA Championship in 2012.
At 4-under through 13 on Thursday, Rose was one shot ahead of Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama, both of whom had completed their rounds.
Jordan Spieth triple-bogeys No. 9 for 2-over start
It wasn’t quite a 12th-hole-in-2016 debacle for Jordan Spieth, but No. 9 in 2021′s first round will also provide some shuddering memories. The 2015 Masters winner went into the trees there Thursday and had some trouble getting out, leading to a triple bogey.
That left Spieth 2-over on the day, hardly out of contention but a far sight worse than the shape he was in when he teed off at the ninth. His first attempt to get out of trouble hit a tree and when Spieth finally got on the green, he turned a look at a bogey into a far more damaging three-putt.
Marc Leishman back to even after 4-under start
Marc Leishman’s hot start has disappeared into a frosty miasma. The 37-year-old is back at even on the day after going 4-under through six holes.
Leishman bogeyed three straight holes beginning at No. 9, then dropped another stroke at the 14th hole to undo all his good early work. His best finish at the Masters was fourth in 2013, and his top result in a major came at the 2015 British Open, when he finished second to Zach Johnson in a four-hole playoff that also included Louis Oosthuizen.
Rory McIlroy goes 4-over for opening round, while Jon Rahm posts even round
The good news for Rory McIlroy is that after starting 4-over through 11 holes, it didn’t get much worse. He went on to bogey the par-5 13th, but a birdie at 15 brought him back to a 4-over finish in Thursday’s first round.
Playing partner Jon Rahm, another betting favorite going into the Masters, bogeyed the 18th hole to finish even on the day. He balanced two bogeys with two birdies during his round, which has to be considered a good result given how difficult Augusta National was playing and that Rahm became a first-time parent on Friday.
The Spaniard’s baby boy may have cost him some sleep and practice rounds, but that was arguably nothing compared to what McIlroy did to his father at the seventh hole. Poor Gerry McIlroy was rewarded for cheering his on in person by getting hit with an errant shot from Rory, but he appeared to take it in stride.
McIlroy is looking to complete a career Grand Slam while Rahm seeks his first major. Also in the hunt for an initial major title is Xander Schauffele, who rounded out their group Thursday and joined Rahm with an even round. Schauffele’s day was a bit more adventurous, as he matched three birdies with a trio of bogeys. Schauffele finished second at the Masters in 2019.
2018 Masters champ Patrick Reed finishes first round one off the lead
Patrick Reed knows what it takes to win the Masters, having donned the green jacket in 2018, and the American has put himself in pretty good position to capture a second one this week. Reed shot 2 under in Thursday’s first round, which was good for a share of second place, one stroke behind co-leaders Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman.
Reed, who won the Farmers Insurance Open in late January for his ninth career PGA Tour victory, arrived at the Masters as the seventh-ranked player in the world. He was 1 under after making bogey on the par-5 13th before making birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 to claim a brief share of the lead, but bogeyed No. 18 to drop one back. Reed shot 68 in the first two rounds at Augusta last year and finished the tournament 10th at 9 under.
Defending champ Dustin Johnson five shots off the lead after a closing double bogey
Dustin Johnson, looking to become only the fourth player to win the Masters in consecutive years, has some work to do after shooting a 2-over 74 in Thursday’s first round. Johnson, who finished his round five shots back of co-leaders Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama, was 7 under after the first round en route to his record-setting triumph at last year’s Masters.
Johnson had his tournament record streak of 11 consecutive rounds under par snapped. After making only four bogeys over four days at Augusta last November, he had three bogeys Thursday, including one after three-putting on the par-4 16th, and finished his round with a double bogey on No. 18.
Johnson wasn’t the only big-name player who struggled to score with Thursday’s firm and fast conditions. Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka also shot a 2-over 74, ending his own streak of 10 consecutive rounds under par at Augusta, while Rory McIlroy had a 4-over 76. Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas were both 3 over through their first seven holes.