AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Justin Rose was one of the last players to arrive at the U.S. Masters and on Saturday the Olympic champion gave himself a chance to be the last man standing when the winner’s Green Jacket is awarded.
Rose stormed home with five birdies in his final seven holes for a five-under-par 67, the day’s lowest round, giving him a one-shot lead along with Spaniard Sergio Garcia at six under heading into Sunday’s final round.
“I knew I needed to get going for sure. But I had confidence that I would have my run,” said Englishman Rose. “Today I began to feel very comfortable on the greens. Just things began to click and I had my run.”
Rose only arrived at the year’s first major on Tuesday for a late practice round as he competed last week in Houston and wanted to focus more on recovery.
The decision seems to have paid off for the 2013 U.S. Open champion as he is in prime position to grab his second major title.
Rose said he and his caddie knew they were being tested on the front nine, a stretch in which he mixed two birdies with a pair of bogeys, and so they decided patience was paramount.
“The key to the strong finish was the patience that I showed on the front nine,” Rose, whose best Masters finish was a tie for second in 2015.
“We were playing well, but we weren’t really making inroads towards the lead, and chose to stay patient, because that’s the only choice that we really have, and it kind of paid off.”
While Rose, who is playing in his 12th Masters, is thrilled to be at the top of the leaderboard after three rounds, he knows all too well that no lead is safe.
Rose will tee off with Garcia in Sunday’s final group, with the pair trying to fend off Rickie Fowler, who is alone in third place. Former Masters champion Jordan Spieth is among a group of three players a further shot back on four under.
”Tomorrow is a huge day. I have an opportunity. That’s all you want but really it starts on the back nine on Sunday,“ said Rose. ”A one-shot lead starting the day doesn’t mean much.
“You’re going to have to go out and play a good round of golf, and I think there’s going to be four or five guys pretty much with the same mindset tomorrow.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford