AUGUSTA, UNITED STATES – Once Justin Rose shook off a miserable start and reminded himself he was still leading the Masters, the 40-year-old Englishman was able to play well enough to stay ahead.
The reigning Olympic champion birdied three of the last six holes on Friday (April 9) after making bogeys on four of the first seven and held a two-shot lead after 36 holes at Augusta National.
“The finger was heading towards the panic button a little bit,” Rose admitted.
Rose, whose only major win was the 2013 US Open, opened Thursday with a 65 for a four-stroke lead, only to see it shrink to a single shot as he walked up the eighth fairway.
That’s when he decided to shift to a match-play mindset against Augusta National.
“I started to take the leaderboard out of it and I felt really good out there on the back nine. It was a solid round of golf,” Rose said.
“I had a little talk with myself on eight and said you’re still leading the Masters 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 on.”
Rose didn’t beat the famed layout, but he put up enough of a fight in a draw to stay ahead of all those pesky stroke-play rivals, his par 72 putting him on seven-under 137.
“Had a putt on 18 to win my match 1-up, but unfortunately it just slipped by,” Rose said. “But an honorable draw.”
The two-time Masters runner-up, a heartbreak playoff loser to Sergio Garcia in 2017, said he was better off for the struggle and fightback.
“I felt like I grew a little bit from today, which is good,” Rose said.
“It was a worthwhile day for me.
“There were some key moments in that front nine where I was pretty proud of myself for just keeping things ticking forward.”
Rose provided some insight into the crucial conversion in his head that helped reverse his scorecard woes.
“I told myself going up the eighth hole, ‘You’re leading the Masters. Your frame of reference is a little bit different. Four ahead is something, but you’re still leading so just enjoy it and keep going.’
“I was able to do that… could then just walk onto the back nine and try to build something fresh and new.”
‘Augusta National happened’
Asked what happened to cause his lacklustre round, Rose replied, “Augusta National happened. That’s just the way it can be out there. That round could easily have been 74.”
Rose will try to keep the same frame of mind for the weekend.
“That will be my mindset for tomorrow,” he said. “Just tidy it up a little bit, get off to a better start and build a round from there.”
With major winners such as US starrs Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas gaining ground, Rose isn’t worrying about what number it might take to win.
“You can see the leaderboard and who is stacking up behind,” Rose said.
“I feel like there’s a lot of firepower there where you can’t ever really hold anyone back to a number.”