The Sunday Post (Inverness)
Rose will have to battle history if he is finally able to slip on the Green Jacket
Justin Rose faltered after a flying start before bad weather and the threat of lightning forced play to be suspended in the third round of the 85th Masters.
Rose held a one-shot lead overnight and moved three clear with birdies on the first two holes at Augusta National, only to drop shots on the fourth and fifth. The former US Open champion parred the sixth and had safely found the seventh green in regulation when the hooter sounded to call the players and spectators off the course due to an approaching thunderstorm.
At seven-under-par, Rose was a shot ahead of playing partner Will Zalatoris, with Justin Thomas, Corey Conners – who had a hole-in-one on the sixth – Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman all on five under.
Former champion Jordan Spieth was a shot further back following a double-bogey on the seventh with a remarkable recovery from the trees on the eighth to set up an unlikely birdie.
Rose had earlier narrowly avoided a bunker with his opening drive and took full advantage, hitting his second shot to 12 feet and converting the birdie attempt.
The 40-year-old also birdied the par-five second, but bogeyed the fourth and fifth after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker on both holes.
History was against Rose as he attempted to win his second Major title, with only one of the last seven players to lead outright after each of the first two rounds going on to claim the Green Jacket.
That player was 2015 champion Spieth, the last man Rose will have wanted to see in his rear-view mirror thanks to the three-time major winner’s brilliant record at Augusta.
The 27-year-old finished second on his debut in 2014, led from start to finish in 2015 – Rose was joint second with Phil Mickelson – and finished runner-up the following year after squandering a five-shot lead with nine holes to play.
In 2018, Spieth led after 18 holes for the third time in four years before almost snatching the green jacket away from
In my opinion the course is set up perfect to identify the best player
Patrick Reed with a closing 64. A loss of form saw the former world No. 1 slump to 92nd in the rankings as recently as February, but last Sunday’s victory in the Valero Texas Open made him one of the pre-event favourites, a status he justified with rounds of 71 and 68 over the first two days.
With the wind forecast to pick up in late afternoon, the early starters had the chance to make a potentially significant move up the leaderboard, but the first group out of Ian Poulter and Paul Casey could only manage rounds of 72 and 73 respectively.
Scotland’s Martin Laird made the ideal start to his third round as he looked to move up the board on the traditional moving day in Georgia.
Laird birdied the first two holes at Augusta National to move into red figures on one-under-par.
However, a bogey at seven took him back to level-par at the turn and once again seven shots behind halfway leader Justin Rose.
Another bogey at the final hole saw the Us-based Glaswegian sign for a level-par 72 and end the day at one-over-par.
Fellow-scot Oban’s Bob Macintyre was at one-under for the day and the tournament after 14 holes when the weather-delay hit.
Three-time champion Phil Mickelson last night praised the set-up of Augusta National as “perfectly done” after carding a third round of 69 in the 85th Masters.
Mickelson made four birdies and a solitary bogey to move up the leaderboard after making the cut on the mark of three over par.
“In my opinion it’s set up perfect to identify the best player and the guys that are striking it well are up on the leaderboard, the guys that are putting it well,” the 50-year-old left-hander said.
“And I think it’s very fair because we’re making divots, the balls are stopping. It’s not like the ’90s where we weren’t, but you still have to have quality shots. You’ve got to hit angles into the pins. You’ve got to be smart.
“I think it’s perfectly done, and it punishes you, like it did me the first couple of days, when you make mistakes or don’t put it in the right spot or hit poor chips.
“I love seeing it like this because you can score low, but you also need to respect it.” Meanwhile, Canadian Corey Conners got to the turn in 32 to blast himself into contention, thanks largely to an ace at the par-3 sixth.