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Rose shoots 67 in first trip around Bellerive

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ST. LOUIS – Justin Rose’s first official trip around Bellerive went about as smooth as possible.

After only walking, not playing, a practice round this week to preserve his achy back, Rose opened with a 3-under 67 Thursday to sit just three shots off the lead at the PGA Championship.

“Today I had a bit of a blank canvas to play with,” he said, “and I felt comfortable on the course.”

Rose withdrew before the start of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after suffering back spasms. He decided to only walk each side here at Bellerive and just hit balls on the range. He said Thursday that his ball-striking was unaffected.

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“Back’s good,” he said. “Not thinking about it. I was able to hit every shot as I wanted to today. I walked nine holes both days, so I haven’t hit a bad shot on the golf course.”

The only issue that Rose encountered was his speed on the greens – likely a product of not hitting many putts up and over ridges during the practice rounds.

“Some of the putts looked very fast to me and they’re not,” he said. “You have to be very aggressive.”

The practice putting green here was chewed up after a long day and lots of foot traffic, so Rose plans to arrive about 20 minutes earlier than usual on Friday morning, just to spend more time working on his stroke.