The cruelty of golf now stares Justin Rose obdurately in the face.
After an opening-round 65 gave him a four-stroke lead in the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, Rose is now a leader by a mere solitary shot after Round 2.
He could only produce a 72 yesterday, rescuing that with three birdies coming home after bogeying four of his first seven holes.
Rose’s first-round lead was the largest 18-hole margin in 75 years of the Masters, in a tie with Charley Hoffman (2017), Christy O’Connor (1985) and Jack Burke Jr. (1955).
Look out, Rose: None of the three won the Masters.
While only a dozen broke par in Round One, 17 players shot 69 or better in Round Two, allowing 11 players to be just three shots or less off Rose.
Rose began with an errant drive that sailed into the Georgia pines, succumbing to more bogeys on 4, 6 and 7 for a front-nine 39.
Three back-nine birdies bagged him a 33 coming home for his one-shot lead. Sanity restored.
“I was joking; the finger was heading towards the panic button,” Rose said. “I had a little talk with myself on 8 and said you’re still leading the Masters...and played match play against the golf course... I had a putt on 18 to win my match 1-up, but, unfortunately, it just slipped by. But an honorable draw.”
The “draw” gave Rose a one-shot lead over Will Zalatoris (68) and Brian Harman (69).
They could be nondescripts for Rose as Zalatoris is ranked 483rd in the world and couldn’t birdie the four par-5s the last two days even as he birdied five of his last eight holes yesterday.
And the bogey-less Harman in 36 holes is only into his third Masters, with no significant finish yet on the Tour. A flash in the pan?
But the other players close by are pedigreed.
Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters winner and 2017 British Open champ, is now just two shots behind Rose after a 68 from four birdies in the final nine.
And Justin Thomas, the PGA champ and ranked second in the world, is only three behind after firing birdies on the dreaded Amen Corner’s 11, 12 and 13 for a 67.
Rose, the 2016 Olympics gold medalist and the 2013 US Open winner, said: “Sleeping on the [4-shot] lead last night makes it much easier tonight and then much easier tomorrow, and hopefully, by Sunday.”
Not to Dustin Johnson, who bogeyed three of his last four holes and got cut by two shots to become the 11th defending champion to miss the Masters weekend in the company of fellow heavyweights Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka.
Like Covid-19, the game also spares no one.