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The Masters: Untouchable Justin Rose brings Augusta to its knees as Shane Lowry stays in the hunt

A simply stunning display to take a four-shot lead.

Justin Rose had nothing to write home about after his opening seven holes of this year’s Masters.

In fact, the Englishman – who has shown little form so far this year – had stumbled out of the blocks, opening with a bogey before letting another shot slip at the seventh.

However, the 2013 US Open champion promptly strode onto the eighth hole and decided enough was enough.

Rose blows away the field with glorious run

Catching fire at the perfect time, Rose swiftly reclaimed both of his dropped shots with a brilliant eagle at the par-five before producing a stunning exhibition of major championship golf as the Masters came alive in enthralling fashion, keeping us glued to the TV (or the laptop, in my case) as it does every year.

After springing into life at the eighth, Rose birdied nine, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17 to card an untouchable opening-round 65, leaving him four clear of Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama and with the green jacket very much in his sights (even at this early stage).

On a day when several of the big names faltered – Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau for example – Rose had all departments of his game working at optimum efficiency during a delicious display of flag-hunting as he came home in 30, which frankly made a mockery of the firm, fast conditions.

Lowry stays in the hunt as Fleetwod aces 16

Shane Lowry, playing alongside Rose, returned a rock-solid 71 which was made to look ordinary by his playing partner’s brilliance.

The Irishman, who will finally defend his Open Championship in the summer, carded five birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey in a rollercoaster opening round.

Meanwhile, Rose’s compatriot Tommy Fleetwood delighted the limited crowds at Augusta with a hole-in-one at the always-fun-to-watch 16th.

Remarkably, it was the only gain Fleetwood managed to make during a frustrating 74.

Rose’s nearest challengers are American Brian Harman and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, both of whom carded stellar 69s.

Patrick Reed, the champion in 2018, is well in the hunt after a two-under 70. He is joined on that score by debutant Will Zalatoris, former US Open champion Webb Simpson and South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout with Jordan Spieth – fresh off his first win in four years – signing for a 71 that included a triple-bogey and an eagle.

Jon Rahm, one of the pre-tournament favourites, is level-par, as is Xander Schauffele with both players grouped alongside McIlroy, who fired a disappointing 76.

Justin Rose

World number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson finished with a double-bogey to sit at two-over alongside Brooks Koepka and former Masters winners Bernhard Langer, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson.

But the first round was all about Rose. Formerly the world number one, his recent slump has seen him slip to 41st, with his last victory back in January 2019.

The 40-year-old – who played his last 11 holes in nine-under – has unfinished business with Augusta, of course. He finished tied-second behind runaway winner Spieth in 2015 and lost in a play-off to Sergio Garcia two years later.

But if he can maintain even a fraction of this scintillating pace over the next three days, nobody will pip him to the green jacket this time.

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