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Favourite Justin Rose sets the pace at the British Masters

Justin Rose lived up to his billing as pre-tournament favourite by setting the pace on day one of the Betfred British Masters.

The world number 31, the top-ranked player in the field, carded eight birdies and a solitary bogey to record a seven-under-par 65 and enjoy a one-shot lead over former Ryder Cup team-mate Jamie Donaldson.

Donaldson, who secured the winning point at Gleneagles in 2014, birdied five of the last six holes in his 66, with Germany’s Yannik Paul, English amateur John Gough, James Morrison and Spain’s Sebastian Garcia all on four under.

Justin Rose
England’s Justin Rose crosses a bridge on the ninth during day one of the Betfred British Masters at The Belfry (David Davies/PA)

“I felt very comfortable with my game from the first shot,” said Rose, who won the British Masters in 2002 and hosted the event in 2018.

“I hit a beautiful little wedge into the 10th hole, made a nice birdie there and I think that’s the cleanest round of golf I’ve played in a long, long time.

“I really drove the ball well, the irons were being struck pretty cleanly and I actually hadn’t made many putts through the front nine to be four under so it was great to manage to make a few coming in.

“It all amounted to a very good day’s work.”

Asked about being a short-priced favourite to win the £2.7million event, Rose added: “I haven’t really paid any attention to that, even though I played with the Betfred lads (in the pro-am) and they were telling me about the pricing of the field.

“It’s obviously somewhat of a compliment but it doesn’t mean anything, does it? You have to go and play well.

“Quality players, if they play well, they are going to be hard to beat, but the hard part is playing well. Obviously I’ve done the first step, got off to a good start, but got a long way to go this week.

“Coming off a missed cut at the US Open and a week off without too much practice, the beginning part of this week was important for me to get tuned back in to my feels and it’s nice to get off to a good, positive start.”

Donaldson was just one under par after 12 holes of his round before picking up shots on the 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th.

Jamie Donaldson
Jamie Donaldson birdied five of the last six holes in a first round of 66 in the Betfred British Masters (Nigel French/PA)

“Nothing was going in, it was all a bit slow at the start and suddenly it all kicked in on the back nine,” the 47-year-old Welshman said. “Five in six holes to finish, so yeah, fantastic.

“I was just trying to be patient. There were a lot of downwind holes towards the end there, so it made it easier to have birdie chances and hit a few good shots.”

The leading three players on Sunday evening, who are not already exempt, will earn a place in next month’s Open Championship and Donaldson added: “It’s a big goal.

“I’m down for the qualifier at West Lancs next week but it would be great to do it here and save having to play 36 holes in one day. There’s a long way to go but I do really want to be playing in the Open. Three more days and I need three more similar rounds.”

Paul currently holds an automatic qualifying place for the Ryder Cup and overcame a back injury which forced him out of last week’s BMW International on home soil to card an opening 68.

“Sometimes when the expectations aren’t as high, your acceptance if you hit bad shots is better,” said Paul, who won his maiden DP World Tour title in Mallorca last season.

“I’m obviously really pleased with my round. I flew here on Tuesday morning, thinking I’d have a 30 per cent chance that I could tee it up.

“My physio Rob is here this week and I also received some good treatment last week, but it took some time to get better.”

Defending champion Thorbjorn Olesen is five shots off the lead after an opening round of 70.

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