AUGUSTA, GA. – After Justin Rose bogeyed the seventh hole in the first round of yhe Masters on Thursday, he fell to 2 over par, just as Augusta National began to punish the field with swirling winds and fast greens.
Then he eagled the 8th. And birdied the 9th. And finished the round by shooting 9 under par on the last 11 holes.
His 65 gave him a four-shot lead entering Friday's second round, and his best Masters round ever.
Rose has led the Masters after the first round four times, tying Jack Nicklaus in that respect.
Nicklaus won the Masters six times. Rose has yet to win it. At 40, he has won one major, despite having played well enough at Augusta National that he often refers to "having one arm in the green jacket.''
"I didn't feel like today was the day for a 65, to be honest,'' Rose said.
He was referring to the conditions, but he could have been referring to his condition. He hadn't played in a month since withdrawing at Bay Hill because of back spasms. He spent the last two weeks practicing instead of competing, and working with longtime swing coach Sean Foley.
Rose admitted that during the COVID-19 lockdown he stopped relying on Foley and adopted swing thoughts that, although sound, "didn't fit my swing."
Last week, Rose said Foley told him, "Buddy, I don't know if you're close, but it's better."
"I've worked with Sean from 2009 through 2020,'' Rose said. "Through the meat of my career. Everything I've achieved in the game of golf I've done with Sean by my side.''
Then why the lull? "I felt like I was tailing off with my own game through 2019,'' he said. "The lockdown, and being left to my own devices, was not such a great thing. I learned more concepts about the swing, but they don't necessarily work for me and my game. He knows what works for me and my game.''
Rose said he has worked on keeping his clubface square longer during his swing -- a simple thought and a difficult task.
Rose won the 2013 U.S. Open. He's finished in the top 10 at the Masters five times, including two second-place finishes and a playoff loss to Sergio Garcia in 2017.
"I've got one to my name," Rose said. "I'm looking for more."
A bit of luck launched his round. He hit a long drive on the par-5 8th, then drew a 5-wood around the corner to the long, tricky green. The ball bounced right off the mounds along the left side of the green and trickled toward the hole, setting up an eagle.
He would birdie seven of the last 10 holes.
After detailing the clubs he hit into the green down the stretch, Rose said, "Sounds easy, when you just put it together like that.''
He made it look easy, on a day when Augusta National was anything but.