AUGUSTA – If anything, England’s Justin Rose is older and wiser than he was in 2004, a year he’d probably like to forget.
Playing in his second Masters Tournament, Rose was the 36-hole leader before carding a disastrous 9-over 81 Saturday and a 1-under 71 Sunday to finish tied for 22nd.
Three years later, Rose is back at Augusta National, where his name is once again atop the leader board. After Thursday’s opening round – an impressive bogey-free outing for Rose – the 26-year-old is tied with Brett Wetterich at 3-under.
Rose said he’s learned valuable lessons from his third-round mistakes that dreadful year, which he now sees as a positive.
“I think experience is generally what makes players better and better as they go throughout their career,” he said. “Sometimes you learn more from situations that go badly than when things go well. I learned a lot about the golf course that particular day, and I learned a lot about how you’ve got to really pace yourself during the week.”
Rose is feeling comfortable and confident with his game and said his putting has improved tremendously in the last year. On Thursday, his solid short game kept him in the mix, and he birdied the third, fifth and 14th.
He’s thankful just to be in the field, an appearance that was in jeopardy a few weeks ago when he was troubled by discs in his back. Rose dedicating himself to rehabbing from the injury, and this week he’s being extra cautious to ensure he’s fully warmed up and stretched before heading out to the practice range.
Rose has been in the hunt during several events both this year and last and feels he’ll eventually put himself in a position to win.
“There’s a lot of things for me to draw on, a lot of positives going on right now,” he said.
Palmer gets thing started
Roughly 10,000 patrons arrived at Augusta National at the crack of dawn to catch a glimpse of the four-time Masters champion, Arnold Palmer hit the ceremonial first shot. It was the first year Palmer has filled the role, creating a buzz around town throughout the week.
“As long as I’ve been coming here, in almost 50 years, I have never experienced the love and excitement, the apprehension, the anxiety of seeing (Palmer) return as the ceremony starter,” said Augusta National member Rob Johnston.
Spectators gave a warm welcome to Palmer, who said his mind has been inundated with fond memories of the Masters in the hours leading up to Thursday morning.
“It’s a great thrill for me, and of course, an honor,” Palmer said of his role. “I was thinking back to when I went to Wake Forest, and I used to watch the Masters and think about coming here. Whoever thought that 60 years later, here we are.”
Quigley finishes +4
First-time Masters participant Brett Quigley might have been the most sleep-deprived player on the course Thursday when he finished tied for 43rd with a 4-over 76.
The former University of South Carolina standout left Augusta Tuesday afternoon when his wife went into labor in Jupiter, Fla. Early Wednesday morning Quigley and his wife Amy welcomed their first child, Lillian Sage Augusta, and Quigley flew back to Augusta Wednesday evening.
“I’ve already changed two diapers, so I feel like a real veteran,” said Quigley, who handed out celebratory cigars on the practice green Thursday. “Amy’s been great through this whole thing.”
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.