Justin Rose happy with recovery on 'challenging' day for overnight leader
Even Justin Rose himself knew he’d have his work cut out trying to back up one of the best rounds in Masters history, having started the second day in the 85th edition with a four-shot lead on the back of a seven-under-par 65 in firm and fast conditions at Augusta National
“It is hard,” admitted the Englishman of players generally knowing they are going to have their work cut out the day after going low. “We haven't quite figured out that dynamic; otherwise, we'd do a better job that second day.”
It was by no means a disastrous follow-up effort for Rose. Three-over for the day after seven holes, he produced his best stuff over the closing 11 holes for the second day running. Helped by three birdies in the last seven holes, he added a par-72 to that sensational first-day effort to remain on seven-under.
However, his inability to keep the foot down resulted in some ominous threats edging closer to him. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion and firing on all cylinders again after ending a lengthy drought last weekend, moved within two shots after a four-under 68.
Justin Thomas the world No 2 and recent Players Championship winner, is a shot further back, as is Tony Finau, who only has a Puerto Rico Open title to his name but has knocked on the door in the past in majors.
“I didn't quite appreciate the scoring was going to be quite so good today,” admitted Olympic champion Rose, a runner-up in this event in both 2015 and 2017, when he lost to Sergio Garcia in a play-off.
“I think it was just a classic day at Augusta National when you're just slightly off. You can be a foot or two out on certain occasions and you end up struggling.
“I felt like the turning point for me, a good two-putt on No 9 just to stop the rot and then walk onto the back nine and try to build something fresh and something new. Actually started to play pretty well from that point onwards.”
After being overtaken at one point by Australian Marc Leishman, the 2012 US Open champion got his nose back in front again thanks to birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th, where he made a 2 for the second day running.
“I think it was a worthwhile day for me,” added Rose. “I'm not kind of brimming with confidence right now, so today was always going to be a challenging day. I felt like I grew a little bit from today, which is good.”
His closest challengers at the halfway stage are, with all due respect to them, two unlikely contenders in the season’s opening major.
Will Zalatoris, who has been catching the eye on the PGA Tour but is making his debut in this event, signed off with three straight birdies to come home in five-under for a 68.
On six-under, he shares second spot with left-hander Brian Harman, who is making just his third appearance at the age of 34 after securing a late invitation.
Spieth made his score with a burst of thee birdies late on to sit a shot further back alongside Leishman, the American having well and truly regained his mojo with a victory in the Valero Texas Open last Sunday.
Finau carded an eagle and six birdies as he took route 66 in his move up the leaderboard while Thomas is lurking ominously after a 67 that contained six birdies, including four in five holes on the back nine.
As well as Thomas and Finau, a group on four-under also includes Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Korea’s Si Woo Kim, who had to use his 3-wood on the greens over the final few holes after breaking his putter in a fit of anger.
Bryson DeChambeau, the US Open champion, looked to be in danger of missing the cut after slipping to five-over early in his round before four birdies in the last six holes salvaged the situation. He sits on one-under.
The cut-off mark was three-over, leaving a casualty list that was headed by defending champion and world No 1 Dustin Johnson, as well as Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Jaso Day and Patrick Cantlay.
It was also an early exit for Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perez and also Max Homa, winner of the Genesis Invitational on the PGA Tour earlier in the year.