PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Justin Rose has long been viewed as one of the game’s elite ball-strikers, but Thursday at The Players Championship the Englishman took it to another level.
Rose barely broke a sweat during his opening round at TPC Sawgrass, finding all 18 greens in regulation for the second time in his PGA Tour career. It led to a 7-under 65 that put him two shots behind leader Jason Day. (Note: The PGA Tour originally stated that Rose had never before accomplished this feat, but Golf Channel research reveals he did so in the second round of the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.)
“I hit two wayward tee shots on the front nine, but I guess I got away with it on No. 4 and No. 7. So I hit some good recovery shots there,” Rose said. “But other than that I was in play all day, played really, really well, had control of my irons which helps. But 18 greens doesn’t happen often.”
Rose enters off a third-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship, but his record on the Stadium Course is far from stellar. While he finished T-4 here in 2014, Rose has missed the cut six times in 12 prior Players appearances.
That lackluster record led to he and caddie Mark “Fooch” Fulcher to develop a new plan of attack for this week, one that paid off immediately with Thursday’s clinical opener. Starting on the back nine, Rose followed an eagle on the par-5 16th with four straight birdies to briefly challenge the course record.
“It’s a strategic golf course, and my caddie Fooch and I have made the commitment this week to try and play it more strategically than we have in years past,” he said. “Although we were chasing birdies, we were still respecting certain pin placements and we did some good work in practice this week to identify a good game plan.”
Rose had a great chance to win last week at Quail Hollow, but he was undone by a balky putter and ultimately missed out on a playoff by a shot. While he is sticking with the claw putting grip that he turned to a few weeks ago, he did decide to switch to a new putter for this week’s event.
“It’s a putter I ordered from TaylorMade a few weeks ago that they have been milling and getting ready for me and it arrived this week,” he said. “Sometimes nice to look at something different. But I feel like there’s definitely merit in what I’m trying to do, and I can take some confidence going forward from today. I felt like I putted really well.”