Described as “brutal” by the world’s best golfers, Augusta National has been very tough to conquer, unless you are Justin Rose.
Rose (-7) sits four shots clear at the top of the leaderboard. He dropped two shots in the first seven holes, but a magnificent eagle on the 8th, kickstarted his round. Further birdies on 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17 has put him clear of the rest. After the round, Rose commented on how well he was able to read the greens. A skill that lead to eight successful putts from 5-10ft.
Brian Harman – a lefty – and Hideki Matsuyama are leading the chasing pack at -3. The latter was expected to have won a major already, but has gone off the radar in recent years. If he can continue to make putts, expect him to be within touching distance come Sunday. A further shot back is the PGA tour’s most consistent player, Webb Simpson and the 2018 champion Patrick Reed.
Jordan Spieth (-1) played the most consistent round of the day, hitting 16 greens in regulation. Unfortunately for the American, one of the missed greens was on the ninth hole, where he ended up taking a triple bogey after finding himself among the trees. He recovered with a birdie on the next hole which helped salvage what could have become disastrous.
World number one Dustin Johnson (+2) finds himself nine shots off the lead, along with Brooks Koepka (+2). Rory McIlroy (+4), Sergio Garcia (+4), Bryson Dechambeau (+4), and Lee Westwood (+6) are all in danger of missing the cut.
Why is the course so tough?
The greens are causing a lot of problems. They are fast, hard and break in all directions. From a distance, they look smaller than they are because the golfers know that the ball is likely to run off, or end up in an awkward spot.
As the week progresses, it is expected to get tougher, unless it rains.
Any rain would allow iron shots to land more softly, giving players more control of the outcome of their shots. It would also slow up the greens a little so that competitors can have a better go at the putt.
Can Rose be caught?
Justin Rose is a proven leader, who knows how to get the job done from the front. The belief is that his score of -7 will be good enough to win this year, especially if the rain stays away. So, if he can par the next three rounds, Rose will likely be the next winner of this prestigious event. Easier said than done.
However, even the slightest slip up will bring everyone else back in with a chance.