Justin Rose hits his approach shot to the 12th, where he made another birdie

The Masters: Justin Rose leads after first round at Augusta National


England's Justin Rose leads the Masters by four shots after a brilliant first round amid difficult conditions at Augusta National.

The former US Open winner produced by far the best round of the day, his 65 some four shots better than the pick of the morning scores and fully six clear of his fellow afternoon starters, among whom Jordan Spieth, Jason Kokrak Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry were the only others to break par.

Rose himself was two-over for the tournament through seven holes, but played the remainder of the round in nine-under to burst clear at the top of what had been a congested leaderboard.

"To be nine-under for my last 11... you never quite see that coming at Augusta National," he confessed.

"The way we played it today, you play off the memory banks a little bit. It's a golf course that plays incredibly different at certain times of year, and this is an Augusta National that has its teeth."

Those teeth were on display from midway through the morning and it seemed Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama had done enough with three-under 69s to end the first round top of the leaderboard. But Rose drew level with them through 13 and went on to complete one of the rounds of the season so far, adding birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

The former world number one lost a play-off to Sergio Garcia at Augusta in 2017 and has a fine record at the course, but arrived under the radar after his preparation was interrupted by a back injury which saw him withdraw from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and then skip the Players Championship altogether.

Showing no signs of the issue which had kept him from hitting balls until a week prior to the event, Rose eagled the eighth hole, birdied the ninth and 10th, dismantled the par-three 12th and then made regulation birdies at the par-five 13th and 15th holes.

A further birdie at the 16th followed by a stunning approach to set up another at the 17th saw him produce a score which had simply not appeared to be out there, and has seen him vault from a pre-tournament 80/1 to clear favouritism.

The scale of the challenge on a brutally difficult opening day became apparent early on as various players got under-par only to stumble through holes like the difficult fifth, the seventh, the ninth and 10th, and a particularly tough Amen Corner.

Matsuyama was the first to reach three-under as he eagled the eighth and that's where he ended the day, his sole blemish coming at the 17th hole, as Lee Westwood laboured to a six-over 78 and Rory McIlroy fared little better in a round of 76 which once again left him with a mountain to climb.


Masters leaderboard

-7 Rose

-3 Matsuyama, Harman

-2 Reed, Simpson, Bezuidenhout, Zalatoris


Former champion Patrick Reed made a bogey at the last in a two-under 70 which was matched by Webb Simpson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and Masters debutant Will Zalatoris, with Lowry's 71 among the best of the afternoon rounds only to be completely overshadowed by that of playing partner Rose.

On a mixed day for the English challenge, Hatton fought back to keep his Masters hopes alive with a one-under 71 which was matched by Spieth, who once more showcased his entertainment value in a round which was derailed by a triple-bogey at the ninth, and set back on track by an eagle at the 15th.

Also collecting some crystal which is given out for any eagle is Tommy Fleetwood, who made a hole-in-one at the 16th on an otherwise disappointing day. Fleetwood's second ace in as many tournament starts was the highlight in a round of 74 which left him fully nine behind the leader, Rose having reached a score which could be enough to win the tournament come Sunday.

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