AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — On a day when it was tough to go low, Justin Rose made it look easy in the opening round of the Masters.
The 40-year-old Englishman shot a 5-under 65, pushing him to a four-stroke lead at Augusta National.
Rose played the last 11 holes at 9 under, beginning his surge with an eagle at the par-5 eighth.
He could have matched a couple of records with a birdie at the final hole but gladly settled for par.
Rose shot 30 on the back side, one off the tournament record shared by Mark Calcaveccia (1992) and David Toms (1998). Rose just missed the mark for largest lead after the opening round, as well.
Still, it was an amazing performance when so many top players were struggling. Defending champion Dustin Johnson opened with a 74. Rory McIlroy struggled to a 76. Long-hitting Bryson DeChambeau was 4 over with three holes to play.
Rose, on the other hand, turned in the best score of his Masters career, His previous low was a 67.
Tommy Fleetwood has made the 23rd ace in Masters history.
Fleetwood holed out the 170-yard shot at the famed 16th hole, raising his arms in triumph when the ball bounced a couple of times and rolled straight into the cup.
Amazingly, it was the second straight tournament in which Fleetwood has made a hole-in-one. He had another two weeks ago at the Match Play Championship.
Even with the ace, Fleetwood was 2 over for the round with two holes to play.
Rose has surged to the top of the Masters leaderboard with an amazing run that began just before the turn.
The 40-year-old Englishman pushed his score to 6-under in the opening round — a surge that began with an eagle at the par-5 eighth.
He added birdies at the ninth, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th holes, meaning he played a stretch of nine holes at 8 under.
With two holes remaining, Rose was three shots clear of the field on a day when most players were having trouble breaking par.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 74, Rory McIlroy struggled to a 76 and Bryson DeChambeau was at 5 over through 13 holes.
One bad shot turned into one big number for Jordan Spieth.
Coming off a victory in the Texas Open, Spieth was 1 under at the Masters when he sent his drive well right into the trees on the ninth hole. He thought he had enough of a gap in the pine trees to give it a shot. It wasn’t big enough. It hit a tree and went further back. Spieth put his third shot just short of the green and looked to have a chance to escape with a bogey.
But then he three-putted for a triple bogey and fell back to 2 over.
Justin Rose, meanwhile, was charging up the leaderboard. Rose was 2 over through seven holes. An eagle on the par-5 eighth hole was the start of a six-hole stretch he played at 6-under par.
Rose was at 4 under and leading with five holes to go. With the wind stronger than in the morning, Rose was the only player under par still on the golf course. Brian Harman and Will Zalatoris each posted 69 earlier.
Dustin Johnson finished his first round as defending Masters champion with a double bogey for a 2-over 74. And so end a record streak he owned at Augusta National.
Johnson had 11 consecutive rounds under par at the Masters. Even in tough conditions, he was in position to keep the streak going. He was 1 under until a bogey on the par-3 16th hole. And on the 18th, he went right into the trees, left of the green, chipped some 25 feet long and three-putted for a double bogey.
The last player to open with a 74 and win the Masters was Tiger Woods in 2005.
Johnson was only five shots out of the lead when he finished.
Brian Harman has gone from last man in the Masters to the first name on the leaderboard Thursday.
Harman had little reason to believe he would be at Augusta National this year. He was at No. 95 in the world a month ago when he tied for third at The Players Championship. That got him into the Match Play, where he reached the quarterfinals. And that was enough to get him to No. 49 in the world and into the Masters.
He had three birdies over his last six holes for a 3-under 69. Harman was tied with Hideki Matsuyama among those who finished early. Marc Leishman also was at 3 under at the turn.
Harman is making only his third start in the Masters.
At this time last year, Will Zalatoris was playing on the Korn Ferry Tour. Off to an early start, he delivered the first sub-par round at the Masters, a 2-under 70.
The pandemic forced a shift to last November that produced record low scoring by defending champion Dustin Johnson (20-under 268) and the field (average score 71.75). With a return to a spring date, tournament officials promised a return to the firmer, faster conditions.
Zalatoris actually dipped as low as 3 under after an eagle at No. 15, but gave back a shot on the next hole. A trio of internationals — Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa and Englishman Paul Casey — were still on the course at 3 under and leading the tournament.
The early leaderboard at the Masters had a very international feel.
Si Woo Kim of Korea, Corey Conners of Canada and Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa were sharing the early lead Thursday at Augusta National, with all at 2 under in their opening rounds.
Kim and Conners were through nine holes. Bezuidenhout was through five holes. With 49 players on the course for the opening round, only 10 were under par.
Meanwhile, Viktor Hovland of Norway has bounced back nicely from early trouble. Hovland triple-bogeyed the opening hole, then birdied three of his next five holes to get back to par for the day.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson — who made a total of four bogeys on his way to the Masters title in 2020 — opened with a bogey Thursday and was even through four holes. Among those following Johnson at Augusta National: his father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky.