Justin Rose stole the show at the Masters on Thursday, the apparently out-of-form Englishman firing a wonderful first-round 65 to take a four-shot lead into Friday’s play.
Beaten in an Augusta National play-off by Sergio Garcia in 2017, Rose has always had an affinity for the Masters, but was making his first start since a back injury forced him to withdraw from last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rose’s round was sensational, partly due to difficult course conditions, but also because he limped to two over through seven holes, before carding seven birdies and an eagle to reach seven under – a run which saw him surge four ahead of second-placed Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman.
Rose The Clear Leader
Rose is the clear
7/2 favourite to land what many will consider to be an overdue Green Jacket and, with Augusta as firm and fast as it has been for some years, the 40-year-old will take some pegging back in conditions that are drastically different to 2020’s November edition.
The Cathedral of Pines tested the best on Thursday.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson doubled 18 to card a two-over 74, while Bryson DeChambeau’s latest attempt to overpower the golf course resulted in a four-over 76, a score matched by a wayward Rory McIlroy.
Jon Rahm (level par) and Justin Thomas (one over), are in better shape but perhaps Rose’s biggest challenge will come from former champions Jordan Spieth, who is
12/1 chance Patrick Reed, who both finished under par on Thursday.
Spieth Close Enough to Strike
Spieth, who made an unlikely eagle at 15, adores Augusta and is back to something close to his Green Jacket-winning best after his win at the Texas Open.
Reed, meanwhile, bogeyed the last to drop to two under, but he remains a clear candidate to hunt down the leader.
Rahm arrived late to Augusta after welcoming his first child into the world last weekend and the new dad admitted to being outfoxed by a lack of practice time on the slicks greens – a fact that makes his level-par first-round effort look encouraging.
Better can be expected from the Spanish bull and he looks a solid
Evens bet to finish up inside the top ten at Augusta.
Rahm has always played well at the Masters, carding career form figures of 27-4-9-7 at the Georgia track.
Bubba Bubbling Under
Elsewhere, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson looks a value
5/2 to finish inside the top 20 and he plays in the 6.12pm threeball, which also includes Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka.
Augusta National brings out the artistry in Watson, who shot a first-round 74 which would have been a whole lot better had he not found the water on the par-five 15th and bogeyed the final two holes.
He looks solid, overall, and his rivals have questions to answer. Koepka has been struggling following knee surgery and is unlikely to play better than he did yesterday, while Hovland’s first-round performance was a mixed bag and Augusta will continue to ask serious questions of his unimpressive short game.
*All odds correct at time of writing