Rose goes from stiff back to managing Masters expectations

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –


Justin Rose was struggling with back issues a month ago. Now his big worry is managing expectations after seizing a four-stroke lead in Thursday's first round of the Masters.

Rose fired his best career round in 59 trips over Augusta National, a seven-under par 65, to seize an 18-hole Masters lead for the fourth-time in his career.

The 40-year-old Englishman, whose lone major title came at the 2013 US Open, finds himself in contention again after a stiff back sidelined him at Bay Hill after two rounds.

"It was a seven-day bit of a lockup," said Rose of his back trouble, following which he opted out of tournament play for two weeks.

"I chose to put in some work," he said. "I felt like that's what my game needed in order to try to get ready for this week.

"I never quite knew what was going to happen, but I was very anxious for the gun to go off today."

The plan worked. He fired his low Masters round in firm and fast conditions that mystified many big names, going nine-under in a 10-hole stretch from the eighth to 17th.

"The conditions were not the day to go hit them and have your personal best," Rose said. "It was pretty windy enough to be tricky, and the greens are incredibly firm and fast.

"The pin placements were fair, certainly not easy but fair, and if you did hit the right shot at the right time, you could take advantage.

"But yeah, I didn't feel like today was the day for a 65 if I'm honest."

With his swing position clicking, Rose said managing his expectations might be the hard part of the last 54 holes.

"That's going to be the trick the rest of the week. Hopefully you can just run off instinct a little bit," Rose said.

"I've had some situations in my career that should stand me in good stead, but I think to keep the expectations relatively low even in this situation is not a bad thing."

Rose was a Masters runner-up in 2015 and 2017, dropping a playoff to Sergio Garcia in the latter.

- 'It was incredible' -

Rose made bogeys at the first and seventh holes and changed his mindset just ahead of an eagle at the par-5 eighth.

"It maybe settled me down," Rose said. "I knew two-over through seven is not the end of the world, but also knew you're going in the wrong direction.

"I didn't hit the panic button yet, but I reset and thought if I can get myself back around even par, that would be a good day's work.

"Then I just got on a great run and was just trying to stay out of my own way and get it to the clubhouse.

"I putted the ball beautifully and read the greens unbelievably well."

It was a lesson in perseverence for Rose.

"It was incredible," he said. "It's a good reminder that you just never know what can happen out there, just to stick with it on the golf course."