New York Times
AUGUSTA, Ga., April 8 — Justin Rose was unflappable. The weather was unpredictable. And a struggling Tiger Woods was in trouble after completing
only 14 holes before play was suspended.
The first day of the 68th Masters featured some terrific shots, volatile weather and the continuing of Arnold Palmer's farewell in his 50th and final
But the early advantage belonged to Rose, a 23-year-old from England, who has always been on the career fast track. As a 17-year-old amateur, Rose
tied for fourth place at the 1998 British Open. The next day he turned pro, eager to play at golf's highest level, while ignoring those who believed
he was not ready.
Considering that history, Rose's heady play at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday was fully in character. On a course that can be more stressful
than calculus, Rose had it all figured out. He birdied the first two holes. He birdied the last two holes. Most important, he hit 17 of 18 greens in
regulation and avoided the blunders that plagued Woods, who double-bogeyed No. 5 on his way to a front-nine 40 that put him in danger of falling out
of contention quickly, or even missing the cut.
When play was suspended by darkness after a 2-hour-8-minute delay because of lightning, Rose was the clubhouse leader with an opening-round
five-under-par 67, two strokes ahead of Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas, who were tied for second place. Woods was four over par through 14 holes, nine
strokes behind Rose. Eighteen players who failed to complete their opening rounds will return Friday morning to finish first-round play, followed by
With four worldwide victories after a difficult start to his professional career, Rose has talent, savvy and high-trajectory iron shots that serve him
well when approaching Augusta's firm greens. But as the youngest professional in the field, is Rose really ready to win a major? He hardly sounded
frightened by the thought.
"I think unfazed would be my ideal mind-set for tomorrow," said Rose, who tied for 39th last year in his Masters debut. "I'm 23 and I've been through
a lot of great experiences and won four times. I feel very comfortable in the position I am. Hopefully, it's time to move onward and upward even
Rose was certainly in better position than some of the world's top players, who were punished for poor play. Vijay Singh opened with a 75, largely
because of a triple-bogey 8 at No. 15. The defending champion, Mike Weir, was four over par through 15 holes, Chad Campbell shot 76, John Daly and
David Toms shot 78, Jonathan Kaye shot 79, Adam Scott shot 80 and Shigeki Maruyama shot 82, including an 8 on the par-3 No. 12.
Thursday's rain did not take the bite out of Augusta. The greens were still firm and fast, a stiff price was paid for bad shots and double bogeys or
worse were common.
But Rose seemed almost oblivious to the trouble during a round that included six birdies and one bogey. Rose, Haas and Fred Couples were the only
players in the 93-player field to start with two birdies. When Rose stepped to the first tee and blasted his opening drive down the middle of the
fairway, he figured it would be a good day.
"From that moment on I just really felt comfortable on the golf course," said Rose, who has spent the last eight weeks in the United States working
with his instructor, David Leadbetter. "I felt it was important to come over here not just for a week or two weeks, but for a period where I could
really put some hard work into my game. It was just a matter of letting it flow, really."
For Woods, finding a positive flow recently has been far more difficult. Although he could hardly be written off, in all three of his Masters
victories Woods shot 70 in the opening round. Whenever he has shot worse, he has not won.
Woods got off to a bad start with a bogey at No. 1, but his biggest miscue came at the par-4, 455-yard No. 5. His approach shot from the fairway
sailed well over the green, rolled down a hill and settled in the bushes behind the green. That forced Woods to take a trip into the woods, where all
he could do was punch out, still well short of the green. Then after hitting a nice flop shot to about five feet, Woods missed the putt and was forced
to write a 6 on his card.
Then at the par-5 No. 8, Woods was forced to lay up after driving into the fairway bunker, and after missing the green on his third shot, he failed to
get up and down, making another bogey.
Woods could use the kind of break Friday that DiMarco received Thursday. DiMarco had the highlight shot of the first round, a hole in one at No. 6,
after hitting a 5-iron shot from 198 yards that landed about two feet in front the cup, then dropped into the hole. It was the 15th hole in one in
Masters history, but the first since 1996, when Raymond Floyd aced No. 16. "I hit one of those shots that was just perfect," DiMarco said.
Rose, who was playing in the same group as DiMarco, had just hit a shot to five feet at No. 6 before DiMarco stole the spotlight. "I was pretty proud
of myself until Chris got up there," Rose said.
Actually, Rose was still proud of himself when the round ended. With 54 holes remaining, Rose was far from a green jacket. But first-time major
winners have won the last five majors.
"It would be nice if that trend kept going," Rose said.