Rose fights back from wretched start to retain his lead in Augusta

Justin Rose fights back from a wretched front nine on day two of the Masters to finish on level par and retain his lead on seven under at Augusta with Englishman two shots clear of Australian Marc Leishman

  • Justin Rose entered the second day on the back of a brilliant 65 on Thursday 
  • However he struggled on day two, playing the front nine holes in three over 
  • He stopped the rot though and fought his way back to finish the day with a 72
  • Among the early finishers Rose now has a two shot lead over March Leishman 

Justin Rose put together a stirring fightback to salvage his second round at the Masters and leave him dreaming of that elusive green jacket heading into the weekend.

It looked as if it was all going horribly wrong when he played the front nine in three over, but he repaired the damage expertly coming home for a 72 to stand on 7 under par at the halfway stage.

Among the early finishers, Rose was two shots ahead of Australian March Leishman, who finished fourth here in 2013 and lost a play-off for the Open at St Andrews in 2015.

There was smiles for Justin Rose as he managed to salvage his second round at Augusta

It was a different case earlier in the day as he suffered a wretched opening nine holes 

Rose was hardly the first golfer to wake up the morning after a stunning display at Augusta and wonder if he was still playing the same game.

After the effortless ease of his marvellous 65 on day one came a tortuous front nine played in 39 shots that was as different as night and day. When he began at 9-36am he was the owner of the joint-largest first round lead seen at a major for 75 years. It lasted barely two hours, let alone three more days.

It’s been a hallmark of the 40 year old Englishman’s rollercoaster career how he has recovered from adversity. After the flurry of dropped shots came the spirited response with three birdies in four holes from the 13th.

He’s right where he wants to be going into the final two rounds of the 85th edition.

It is never easy leading the Masters. One bald statistic conclusively demonstrates that. Since 1985, 24 different players have held the outright lead following the first round. The number who have gone on to win? Just Jordan Spieth in his all-conquering year of 2015.

Rose’s stunning 65 left even his coach Sean Foley feeling a sense of amazement. ‘I’m pleasantly surprised, to be honest, given there was a month where he wasn’t able to do very much owing to his back,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘Inspiration is an amazing tool.’

Rose struggled during the opening nine holes in the second round of the Masters

It’s one thing drawing on happy memories at a course where you’ve birdied every hole over the years at least half a dozen times. Quite another waking up the next morning with no body of recent work to provide further support.

Even on the practice ground Rose, who’s been so close so often to winning the green jacket, looked nervous. A couple of drives were fanned out badly to the right.

It was no surprise to see him take a three wood, therefore, off the first tee but that one was fanned into the Georgia pines as well, leading to an instant bogey. Rose regained the stroke lost at the par five second, with a delicate chip expertly played to 3ft. Then the problems began.

The 4th to the 7th is one of the hardest stretches on the course, where shots even slightly off line are invariably punished. At the daunting par three 4th, Rose’s tee shot with a metal wood hung in the fringe at the back of the green, and he totally misjudged the strength needed to clear it with his first putt, the ball dribbling barely a third of the required length.

At the next par three, the 6th, his tee shot was two yards off line but that was all it needed to catch a severe slope and send the ball 70ft from the flag. His first putt almost climbed the hill but almost added up to a bad mistake, as the ball came back 66ft almost to his feet. He did well to two putt from there, for another bogey.

He stopped the rot though as he started his comeback on the 13th hole to help retain his lead

At the 7th, a further stroke was spilled after finding the front bunker. It was becoming clear that Rose needed some deep breaths and a few smooth swings if his round was not to completely unravel.

Rose had been two over par after seven holes on Thursday, before an eagle at the 8th led to a ferocious burst of scoring that saw him pick up nine shots in his last 11 holes. This time there was just a par on that hole and another at the 9th.

During his time off, Rose had sat in a darkened room on occasion and visualised the shots he would hit at Augusta. On Thursday it went so well as to have been beyond his wildest imagining. Fast forward a day, and it was unlikely there were too many of his 39 shots over that front nine that he had pictured.

If he looked at the giant scoreboard as he was crossing over to the 10th tee, however, he would have seen that he still had the lead. Rose played the difficult 10th and 11th holes well, walking off with the two pars that any player is happy about.

Having stopped the rot, the 13th was the obvious place to start the comeback. He pulled it off impressively, two good shots into the heart of the green setting up a much-needed two-putt birdie.

Even better was the bonus gain at the 14th, where he rolled in a putt from 20ft. This was looking more like the Rose who had left the rest of the field on day one wondering if he’d played the same course. At the 16th came another gain, and another holed putt from 20ft. What a response to his earlier difficulties.

Playing behind Rose, Tommy Fleetwood looked as if he was in the mood to build on his hole in one at the 16th hole on Thursday, that salvaged a 74. He picked up four shots in ten beautifully played holes before bogeys at the 11th and the 13th took him back to level par. Matt Fitzpatrick was on the same mark with five holes to play but Tyrrell Hatton ran up a double bogey seven at the 13th to fall to two over. Matt Wallace, third in the Texas Open last week, finished on that mark for 36 holes to make it to the weekend after a second round 72.d

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