Masters: Rose leads after first round
By Paul Newberry
AUGUSTA, Ga. ó Justin Rose has the first round of the Masters down pat.
It’s the rest of the tournament he must master.
Rose shot a 4-under 68 that put him atop the leaderboard on a warm, sunny opening day that featured Ian Poulter’s hole-in-one, a solid start to Zach Johnson’s title defense and Tiger Woods poised for a run at another green jacket. Sound familiar? It should.
In 2004, the Englishman led after the first and second rounds but faded to a tie for 22nd. Returning to Augusta National a year ago, Rose surged to the front again with a 69 on Thursday, but didn’t come close to matching that score the rest of the weekend, settling for a fifth-place tie three strokes behind Johnson.
On Thursday, he got off to another quick start and was tied for the lead with South African Trevor Immelman.
“I’ve learned you can’t count your chickens too early,” said Rose, who won the Order of Merit as the top golfer on the European Tour in 2007. “Obviously, the first round has been great to me here.”
Woods prefers to do his best work on the weekend. In his four previous Augusta wins, he twice trailed by three shots after the first round, another time by five, and was a daunting seven shots back in 2005.
Woods, who shot a 72, remained the overwhelming favorite to win his fifth green jacket ó the starting point for an unprecedented Grand Slam.
“I feel good about how I played all day,” he said. “I hit a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. I’ve just got to stay patient out there and hopefully it will turn.”
After putting up nothing but pars through the first 12 holes, Woods was on the ropes a bit with two straight bogeys. But the world’s No. 1 player quickly pulled himself up by chipping in for eagle from just off the green at No. 15, bringing out his first fist pump of the tournament. He parred out from there.
Rose actually struggled in the beginning, with bogeys on two of the first four holes. But he played the rest of the round at 6 under, surging past early clubhouse leaders Poulter and Robert Karlsson, who posted 70s.
“Eventually you’ve got to say, ‘OK, it’s time to step up,”‘ the 27-year-old Rose said. “But I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. I’m just coming into my prime, I feel. I’ve got 10 to 15 good years in front of me.”
Immelman played a bogey-free round that seemed to come out of nowhere. He missed the cut in four of his eight events this year, and has yet to finish higher than 40th in a stroke-play tournament.
“Obviously, my form has not been too stellar so far this season,” Immelman said. “I had to just stay patient with myself and know it’s in there somewhere. You just have to remember you’re a fairly good player.”
Johnson, a low-key guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came into the week as little more than an afterthought to Woods, despite an improbable win last year.
Johnson’s victory was viewed as a fluke of the weather. Cold, blustery conditions made it possible for him to play it safe and claim the green jacket with a 1-over 289, tied for highest winning scorer in Masters history.
Still, he’s the only player in the field with a chance to win back-to-back titles, a feat accomplished by only three other golfers. His defense started with a 70.
“All in all, a pretty good solid round,” said Johnson, who shot 35 on the front side and matched it on the back. “I’m very, very honored to be the defending champion.”