The leader speaks: Masters pace-setter Justin Rose discusses expectations, panic buttons and friends

The Englishman got off to a flier on Thursday at Augusta National, posting a 7-under-par 65 to grab a four shot lead.

Every golfer knows that there is something a little magical, maybe even dream-like, about the Masters and Augusta National.

And Justin Rose must have been half-expecting most of Thursday afternoon that someone was about to wake him from a glorious night-time fantasy.

Although, admittedly, there would have been moments, too, when he considered he was in a bit of a nightmare early on in round one of the 2021 Masters.

From 2-over-par after seven holes to playing the final 11 holes in 9-under: this was one of the great (turna)rounds in Masters history and good for a four shot first round lead over Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman.

Rose was one of only three men in the field to break 70 and his Friday morning work will define the rest of the tournament because if he were to break 70 again, the pack will have to press the accelerator to chase him.

Let's take a closer look at his Masters stats and what he said after the sparkling start.

First round lead stats

Rose is the third golfer to hold a four shot 18-hole Masters lead and the previous two failed to win.

In the 21st century round one leaders at Augusta National are only 3-for-28 at claiming a Green Jacket; solo leaders are just 1-for-15.

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The Englishman himself has held one first round four shot lead, at the 2006 FUNAI Classic, and he finished tied sixth. He is 2-for-11 at converting wins from all solo advantages at this stage.

Here's an interesting stat: in 15 attempts, Rose is yet to break 70 in round two at the Masters. He is, however, 8-for-15 at beating par.

He is 7/2 with Paddy Power to win the tournament and 13/10 to win his second round three-ball (Shane Lowry is 17/10, Matt Kuchar 5/2).

On his feelings ahead of the round

"I was very anxious for the gun to go off today. Just felt like I was labouring through my practice rounds a little bit.

"I was really ready to get out there and have the scorecard in my hand. Obviously I haven't played competitive golf for a month or so, so I didn't quite know what was going to happen exactly."

On playing the first seven holes in 2-over

"It maybe settled me down if I'm honest. I kind of knew it's not the end of the world, but also knew I was going in the wrong direction.

"I didn't hit the panic button, but I reset. I thought if I could get myself back around even par, you know, that would be a good day's work.

"You can't win the golf tournament in round one. Even with a 65 you can't win it today. You can only probably lose it in round one."

On hitting his straps and playing the final 11 holes in 9-under

"Obviously the eagle, boom, straight back in there.

"And then I guess I just piggybacked with a birdie straightaway at No. 9. Suddenly I turned in 1-under and I felt I could actually leave the front nine behind as a job well done.

"From that point on I kind of was aware that the lead was only 3-under, and if I played a decent back nine it was basically a very good day's work.

Justin Rose: Not panicking helped to earn lead

"Then I just got on a great run and was just trying to stay out of my own way and just try to get it to the clubhouse and keep doing what I was doing.

"I putted the ball beautifully and read the greens unbelievably well. It's incredible. It's a good reminder that you just never know what can happen out there, just to stick with it."

On returning to his old coach Sean Foley

"We've been putting in a good bit of work the last couple weeks, and I feel like we've fallen upon some clarity in the direction I want to go with my swing.

"He literally said to me, 'Buddy, I don't know if you're close or not, but I just know it's better.'

"And, you know, that's kind of what we came in here with. I obviously wasn't playing well, my swing didn't look good, and I was falling into some interesting habits.

"I wanted get back in a good direction, wanted his support out here on tour. He's obviously a wonderful friend of mine and one of the greatest people I know."

On not getting ahead of himself on Friday and at the weekend

"That's going to be the trick the rest of the week. Hopefully you can just run off instinct a little bit.

"Obviously I've competed in these big tournaments quite a few times, and I've got one of them to my name, but we're looking for more.

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"I've had some situations in my career that should stand me in good stead, but listen, I think to keep the expectations relatively low even in this situation is not a bad thing for me.

"Just keep it one shot at a time, keep committing on this golf course because you can never get ahead of yourself here, we've seen it many times.

READ MORE: Hardy Masters perennial Justin Rose sets the first round pace with a 7-under-par 65

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