Justin Rose missed the cut last week but returned in fine style as he shot a bogey-free six-under 65 to take the first-round lead at the Dell Technologies Championship.
The Englishman’s missed cut last week at The Northern Trust broke a phenomenal run of form that coincidentally started at that event last year; he ran off 10 straight top 10s, and he completed a 12-month cycle with 18 top 10s in 24 tournaments.
Free from trying to protect that streak, Rose putted for birdie on all but two holes and made his six birdies count by keeping bogeys off his card. Three of his birdies that came in his last four holes gave him a one-shot lead over potential Ryder Cup wildcard Russell Knox and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, who both enjoyed strong finishes of their own.
‘Just keeping the card clean made the birdies really count for something,’ Rose said. ‘To birdie three of the last four made a good day a very good day.’
South Africa’s interest in the FedExCup hangs in the balance with both Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace not inside the top 70 in the standings after rounds of 71 and 70.
Oosthuizen started Friday in 69th place, but dropped six places to 75th with back-to-back bogeys and the 14th and 15th proving costly. An opening-hole birdie and a 21-foot putt for par on the 3rd helped the top-ranked Saffa start his day with some confidence before his back-nine wobble. A two-putt birdie on the last helped the 34-year-old end his day level par, the same tally as Rory McIlroy, but he has plenty to do if he wants to advance.
Grace shares 33rd place and moved up to 87 places – he will in all likelihood need a top 15 finish. Back-to-back birdies at the 9th and 10th helped the reigning Nedbank Golf Challenge champion to two under for the day before a wayward drive on the 18th resulted in a bogey.
Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson all finished one over par.
First round leaderboard: (USA unless noted, par-71):
65 – Justin Rose (ENG)
66 – Russell Knox (SCO), Abraham Ancer (MEX)
67 – Chris Kirk, Beau Hossler, Keegan Bradley, Gary Woodland
68 – Adam Hadwin (CAN), Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman (AUS), Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, James Hahn, Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP), Brian Harman
69 – Pan Cheng-tsung (TPE), An Byeong-hun (KOR), Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG), Charles Howell III, Henrik Stenson (SWE), Alex Noren (SWE), Kevin Kisner, Cameron Smith (AUS), Austin Cook, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey (ENG), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Peter Uihlein, J.B. Holmes