AUGUSTA, Ga. – It wasn’t the classic motivational speech, but it’s what Justin Rose needed.
“Buddy, I don't know if you're close or not, but I just know it's better,” Rose’s swing coach Sean Foley, with whom he recently reunited, told him before Thursday’s opening round at the Masters.
On Thursday at the Masters, Rose and his swing were better than any others by four strokes as the Englishman scorched the second nine for a first-round 65 and his lowest score in 16 trips to the year’s first major championship. The round was even more impressive considering that Rose played his first seven holes in 2 over par before going 9 under over his final 11 holes.
“If you had said to me walking up the eighth hole I’d shoot 65, I'd have said no chance, this course is playing a little too tricky for that,” Rose said. “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.”
Rose’s 65 was nearly 10 strokes better than the field average on Day 1 (74.54) and lifted him into at least a share of the first-round lead at the Masters for the fourth time in his career. Only Jack Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion, has held at least a share of the first-round lead on four occasions.
Rose hasn’t played a PGA Tour event in more than a month. He planned to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational but withdrew with a back injury that also kept him out of The Players Championship.
“It was annoying timing, really, to have to pull out of a weekend of a tournament and not be able to make the tee for the Thursday of The Players,” he said. “It could have been a seven days at a different time of the season and would have been a non-event.”
Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, has three career top-5 finishes at the Masters, including a playoff loss to Sergio Garcia in 2017.