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The Telegraph

Justin Rose shows resilience to lead Masters as Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy miss cut

Masters 2021 leaderboard in full This was Rory McIlroy’s most worrying first-round meltdown – and it’s because of Bryson DeChambeau Four became one but, despite his rapidly shrinking lead, Justin Rose claimed he felt more comfortable at the end of the second day of the 85th Masters than he did at the first. “Sleeping will be easier tonight,” Rose said, after he proved to himself and Augusta that he had come armed for his unlikely challenge with the stomach for the fight. Some will be surprised at that statement, not only because of the proximity of Americans Brian Harman and Will Zalatoris, his nearest pursuers, but also because of the identities of a couple of heavyweights, who tore a few strips out of the Englishman’s advantage. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion, is in a tie for fourth on five-under while Justin Thomas, the world No 2, is only one further back. Yet Dustin Johnson and Rory Mcilroy have missed the cut. World No 1 Johnson, looking to become just the fourth defending champion to retain the title, bogeyed the 17th and needed a birdie on the 18th. However, the bogey left him two adrift on five-over after a 75. That was one better than the out-of-sorts McIlroy, who never looked like making it. His 74 was an improvement on his 76, but this was no time for consolation. This was his first Masters missed cut in 11 years. Pete Cowen, his new coach, plainly has his work cut out. Rose is an example of how quickly it can be turned around following his abject 2020. The 40-year-old had not played for five weeks coming in, due to a back spasm and then, after he recovered, made the decision to eschew a pre-event to focus entirely on winning his second major. So far, his radical plan is working. Granted, Rose’s prayers of a procession may be up in smoke, but this was hardly the nightmare recession he feared when, in his words, “my finger reached for the panic button” in the midst of a terrible start. He gallantly battled back for a 72 to remain on seven under and said: “ I would definitely have taken this position at the start.” The 40-year-old has been around too long and played in too many Masters to know that runaway leaders at Augusta rarely enjoy uninterrupted progress to the Butler Cabin. He is also aware that if he is finally to don a Green Jacket, he will have to scrap for every piece of thread. With his stunning opening 65, Rose had marched clear. Nobody since Craig Wood 80 years ago has ever enjoyed a bigger first-round advantage and the American is one of only five champions who went wire-to-wire, the last being Spieth six years ago. Rose was second on that occasion – one of his two runner-up finishes here – so was fully appreciative of the scale of the challenge awaiting despite his remarkable beginning. And he still is. “It was a classic day at Augusta, as I was just a little bit off at the start and was made to pay,” he said. “It certainly felt a lot different to yesterday and there was anxiety, but I told myself on the eighth, ‘Hey, you’re still leading the Masters.’ That changed my mindset. I scratched a line on my scorecard and played matchplay against the course. I was three down and I had the [18-foot] putt on 18 to win my match, but an honourable draw.” There were four dropped shots in Rose’s first seven holes, as he fell back to four under. His bogey on the seventh led to him being caught by Bernd Wiesberger – the Austrian who shot a day’s best 66 to move to four under – but, just as on Thursday, when he played that initial septet in two over, Rose refused to buckle. He dug deep, parred the next five, then moved on to the par-five 13th.