On Friday at the Masters, Justin Rose shot an even-par 72 and will move into the weekend at Augusta National Golf Club as the man to beat at 7-under par 137.
Rose, who arrived on the first tee with a four-shot lead, swiftly saw it shaved to just three after a bogey on the par-4 first. But the Englishman promptly offset the dropped shot with a fabulous birdie on No. 2, and following a second straight look at birdie on No. 3, resulting in a tap-in par, all seemed fine with the overnight leader. But then bam, bam, bam – three bogeys in a four-hole span (Nos. 4, 5 and 7) and the 40-year old Brit was ready to push the panic button as he tumbled back to the pack.
“I was joking that the finger was heading towards the panic button a little bit,” said Rose. “I had a little talk with myself on 8 and said, ‘You’re still leading the Masters,’ and I just changed my mindset a little bit and started to play match play against the golf course.
“I scratched a line on my scorecard and told myself I was three down and could I go ahead and beat the golf course from that point? I had a putt on 18 to win my match, 1-up, but unfortunately it just slipped by. But an honorable draw.”
That he did.
After five straight pars to cool the trigger finger, Rose went on a “feel-good” scoring spree, starting with a birdie on the par-5 13th – Amen Corner’s finale. He added two more gains on Nos. 14, and 16 to get back to even-par.
“I felt like the turning point for me was a good two-putt on No. 9 just to stop the rot and just to feel like I could then just walk onto the back nine and try to build something fresh and something new,” said Rose. “I started to play pretty well from that point onwards.
“That round could easily have been 74, and I would still be in a great position going into the weekend. Making a few birdies just makes you feel good for sure.”
While Rose will sleep on the 36-hole lead, he no longer has the comfort of a four-stroke advantage he enjoyed Thursday evening.
Rose is now just one clear of Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman, who each closed their second rounds in glorious style: Zalatrosi with three straight birdies (Nos. 16-18) and Harman with back-to-back gains.
The duo shared second-place on 6-under par 138, one in front of Marc Leishman and Jordan Spieth.
Leishman’s day was highlighted by six birdies, including three straight to start, and three more on Nos. 12, 13, and 15 to post 67.
Spieth, meanwhile, was just 1 under through 12 holes, but then caught fire on the final six with birdies on Nos. 13, 15, and 17 to sign for a 68, and join the Aussie at T4 on 5-under par.
“I thought today was a really, really solid last six holes,” said Spieth. “I thought I had pretty good chances for birdie on 3 and 8 with a wedge in my hand from inside of 50 yards, and that’s normally routine for me, so I was getting a little frustrated through 12 holes at only being 1-under, and instead of making a mistake, I hit it out of the trees, I hit a really good shot out of the trees on 13 today that set up a birdie, I thought that was kind of a turning point that could have gone the other direction.
“I mean, having made a triple and have five over-par holes through two rounds, I feel pretty good about being at 5-under.
“That’s, what, eight birdies and an eagle on a very difficult golf course? I think I’d probably sign up for a similar score after the next two days.”
It appeared it’d be a foursome in the 5 under group as Tony Finau and Justin Thomas, who were paired together, had the day’s two best rounds going until each bogeyed the final hole to drop a shot and settle in at T6 on 4 under par.
Still, despite the final-hole flubs, both Finau (66) and Thomas (67) posted two of the day’s low scores and will enter the weekend on the first page of the leaderboard.
“Yeah, I played great today. I played solidly,” said Thomas, when asked to assess his round. “I drove the ball a lot better, hit a lot more quality iron shots, had some great up and downs. It was easy.
“For as tough as this place has been playing, I felt like it was as easy as it could have been, other than the putt that I made on 11. I mean, a lot of my birdies have been pretty low stress or pretty easy.
“I definitely have left a lot of shots out there the last two days or two rounds, but I’m in a great position.
“I need to get over that three-putt pretty quickly because it’s over with. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
Others in the T6 group included Hideki Matsuysma (71), Si Woo Kim (69), Cameron Champ (68), and Bernd Wiesberger, who matched Finau’s low-round 66.
2021 Masters Tournament Leaderboard
Masters Top 10: Round 2
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 2)
1. Justin Rose -7 (E)
2. Will Zalatoris -6 (-4)
2. Brian Harman -6 (-3)
4. Marc Leishman -5 (-5)
4. Jordan Spieth -5 (-4)
6. Justin Thomas -4 (-5)
6. Tony Finau -4 (-6)
6. Si Woo Kim -4 (-3)
6. Hideki Matsuyama -4 (-1)
6. Cameron Champ -4 (-4)
6. Bernd Wiesberger -4 (-6)
Masters Notables: Round 2
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 2)
12. Xander Schauffele -3 (-3)
13. Collin Morikawa -2 (-3)
17. Viktor Hovland -1 (-2)
17. Bryson DeChambeau -1 (-5)
21. Jon Rahm E (E)
21. Bubba Watson E (-2)
21. Henrik Stenson E (-1)
21. Shane Lowry E (+1)
21. Tommy Fleetwood E (-2)
32. Patrick Reed +1 (+3)
32. Tyrrell Hatton +1 (+2)
32. Gary Woodland +1 (+1)
32. Scottie Scheffler +1 (E)
40. Webb Simpson +2 (+4)
40. Louis Oosthuizen +2 (-2)
40. Jose Maria Olazabal +2 (-2)
47. Paul Casey +3 (+2)
47. Ian Poulter +3 (+1)
47. Adam Scott +3 (+1)
47. Francesco Molinari +3 (+1)
47. Phil Mickelson +3 (E)
47. Billy Horschel +3 (E)
Masters Notables: Missing Cut
Pos-Player-To Par (Rd 2)
55. Matt Kuchar +4 (-2)
55. Daniel Berger +4 (+1)
55. Sergio Garcia +4 (E)
60. Brooks Koepka +5 (+3)
60. Dustin Johnson +5 (+3)
60. Lee Westwood +5 (-1)
67. Rory McIlroy +6 (+2)
74. Patrick Cantlay +8 (+1)
77. Jason Day +9 (+4)
83. Sungjae Im +13 (+8)
83. Fred Couples +13 (+6)
85. Vijay Singh +15 (+8)
Justin Rose’s Stats
Thru 36 Holes
Driving: 292.8 yards (41st)
Fairways: 71.4%, 20/28 (20th)
Greens: 77.8%, 28/36 (3rd)
Putts Per GIR: 2.062 (2nd)
Scores: 1 Eagle, 11 Birdies, 18 Pars, 6 Bogeys
Par-5s (-6) 1 Eagle, 4 Birdies, 3 Pars
Par-4s (E) 4 Birdies, 12 Pars, 4 Bogeys
Par-3s (-1) 3 Birdies, 3 Pars, 2 Bogeys
Amen Corner: (-3) 3 Birdies, 3 Pars
Question: “A lot of people have said before and during this tournament, actually, that 10-under may well win this Masters. Do you agree with that, and does that affect — do you think of scores or targets, bearing in mind you reached 7-under after 18 holes and you’re close to 10-under already?”
JUSTIN ROSE: “I haven’t really thought about that to be honest with you. It did cross my mind yesterday. I said, I wonder if I shot three 70s after yesterday if that would be good enough.
“You can see the leaderboard and who is stacking up behind, and I feel like there’s a lot of firepower there where you can’t ever really hold anyone back to a number. Like you saw me yesterday, even on a tough golf course, someone gets it going around here. You can stretch away.
“But I think historically I always felt day one plays pretty tough around Augusta National, day three plays pretty difficult here at Augusta National, and then day four there’s an opportunity. Guys don’t historically go super low on Sunday, but there’s the opportunity to go low.
“You just have to keep hitting the shots. I’m not going to worry about a score. I think it’s hard enough just to keep playing shot by shot rather than even sort of trying to piece scores together day-by-day.”