Rose hopes to stretch lead with early charge at Masters

Augusta (United States) (AFP) –

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Justin Rose prepared to make an early charge as Friday's second round of the 85th Masters began at Augusta National with the Englishman holding a four-stroke advantage.

Rose fired his lowest Masters round in 59 trips with a seven-under par 65 on Thursday to match the largest 18-hole Masters lead since 1941 in quest of an elusive green jacket.

Rose, whose only major title came at the 2013 US Open, was set to tee off at 9:36 a.m. (1336 GMT) while his nearest rivals were all among the afternoon starters.

In his first round, the 40-year-old reigning Olympic champion took apart a firm and fast Augusta National layout that humbled a world-class field, using strong iron play and putting in a 10-hole run of seven birdies and an eagle from the eighth to the 17th.

"I putted the ball beautifully and read the greens unbelievably well," Rose said. "If you had said to me walking up the eighth hole, I'd have said no chance, 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."

Only 12 players finished under par in the first round, with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and American Brian Harman sharing second on 69. Both tee off in the final five afternoon groups.

Sharing fourth on 70 were South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout and an American trio -- Masters debutante Will Zalatoris, 2012 US Open champion Webb Simpson and 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed.

Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, who snapped a four-year win drought last week in Texas, was on 71 despite a triple bogey at the ninth.

"Six back after one round, I'm glad the course is firm," Spieth said. "I'm not really going to be focused, I don't think, on Rosey. That's a heck of a round.

"Just assume that this golf course is going to be just as challenging going forward and pick your spots."

World number three Jon Rahm, who only arrived at Augusta National on the eve of the event, was on 72. The Spaniard was with his wife Kelley, who gave birth to son Kepa on Saturday.

Top-ranked defending champion Dustin Johnson opened on 74, as did Brooks Koepka, a four-time major winner coming off right knee surgery last month.

Second-ranked Justin Thomas, who can overtake Johnson for world number one with a victory this week, was on 73, as was another American, 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa.

Reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau opened on 76, his long-driving game thwarted by Augusta National. DeChambeau drove over the green to double-bogey the par-3 fourth.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy struggled to a 76 in a round that saw him strike his father, Gerry, with a wayward second shot at the par-4 seventh.

England's 47-year-old Lee Westwood, runner-up at Bay Hill and the Players last month, stumbled to a 78 in his bid to become the oldest Masters champion.