Justin Rose delivered a remarkable burst of scoring to recover from a slow start and open up a four-shot lead after the opening round of the 85th Masters.
Rose, a two-time runner-up at The Masters, bounced back from being two over par after seven holes to fire an eagle and seven birdies in challenging conditions and card a seven-under 65 at Augusta National.
The former US Open champion’s commanding advantage equals the second-highest first-round lead in Masters history and came on a Thursday where only 12 of the 88-man field were able to break par, with Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy among the high-profile names to struggle on the opening day.
Rose, making his first appearance since withdrawing mid-round at last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a back injury, dropped a shot on his opening hole and lost further ground with a three-putt bogey from 50 feet at the seventh.
The Englishman responded by making a 10-foot eagle at the eighth after taking a fortunate bounce with his approach into the par-five, with Rose then producing an impressive iron shot to set up a close-range birdie at the next and reach the turn in 35.
Rose started his back nine with a 25-foot birdie at the 10th and picked up another shot at the par-three 12th, moving him alongside morning clubhouse leaders Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama, before grabbing the outright lead by laying up and nudging in from three feet at the par-five 13th.
The world No 41 got up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the par-five 15th and nailed a 15-footer at the par-three next to extend his advantage, before firing his approach at the 17th to tap-in range for another birdie and then signing off his stunning round with a two-putt par.
Matsuyama and Harman were the only other players to break 70, both carding opening-round 69s in the morning wave, while 2018 champion Patrick Reed is part of a four-way tie for fourth and in the group on two under that includes former US Open champion Webb Simpson.
Jordan Spieth, chasing a second win in as many weeks after returning to the winner’s circle at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday, chipped in for eagle at the par-five 15th and went bogey-free on his back nine to post a one-under 71, with Open champion Shane Lowry and England’s Tyrrell Hatton among the other players under par.
Jon Rahm, a late arrival on Wednesday after becoming a father over the weekend, dropped a shot at the last to card a level-par 72, while Justin Thomas started with a one-over 73 and Tommy Fleetwood is part of the group on two over after making a hole-in-one at the par-three 16th.
World No 1 Johnson – who registered a record-breaking five-shot victory in November’s Masters – double-bogeyed his final hole to stutter to an opening 74, with four-time major champion Brooks Koepka also nine off the pace in his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery.
McIlroy faces a battle just to make the cut in his latest attempt to complete golf’s career Grand Slam, with the Northern Irishman hitting his father with a wayward approach into the seventh for one of three consecutive bogeys on his front nine.
The former world No 1 hit approaches into the water at both the 11th and 13th on his way to eventually signing for a 76, while DeChambeau is also on four over after making an erratic start to his bid for a second major title.
Lowry rolled in a tricky 17-foot birdie putt on 18 to bring himself back under par. That was the fifth birdie of a round that also featured two bogeys, a double bogey and an unfortunate chip shot that rolled all the way across the 15th green and into the water.