Rose leads as rivals fade away
If the Grand Slam foursome didn't find out in Monday's Pro-Am, locals would have been happy to tell them Port Royal is almost always a course of two completely different nines.
And as it was yesterday.
With a blitz of birdies in the opening few holes, they might even have envisaged a new course record.
But at the end of the day, US Open winner Justin Rose will have been content with a four-under-par 67 which gave him a two-shot cushion over PGA champion Jason Dunfer going into today's second and final round.
Australian Adam Scott saw his share of the lead evaporate in the last five holes where he dropped three strokes to card a one-under-par 70.
As for Padraig Harrington, he admitted it would take “a minor miracle” to retain his title after struggling to a three-over 74.
The Irishman couldn't keep pace as Scott and Dufner made the turn in four-under with Rose just one stroke back.
Scott made birdies at holes two, three and five and nine to surge into an early lead but Dufner also made a bunch himself and after making an improbable birdie at the first, Rose kept up the chase.
However, it was a different tale after the turn, the wind freshening and the more difficult holes still to come.
Birdies were suddenly at a premium.
And while 16 might be the course's signature hole, it also proved far more expensive than the rest.
Harrington and Scott both suffered double-bogeys, Dufner a bogey and Rose was satisfied with a par.
Conceding the back nine was tougher than the first, Rose admitted the wind had made a difference.
“Looking at the scorecard you can see there's a lot of the red (birdies) on the front and not so much as the back,” he said.
“I thought the wind kicked up as we were playing the ninth hole. But maybe I noticed it because that's where I made my first bogey.
“I feel like I'm still learning the golf course . . . but to be honest with you, there should be as many birdie holes on the back as there are on the front. I think the wind got stronger and I think also, it's a long day out there.
“We're not used to playing four balls and I think just to keep your concentration for maybe an hour longer than you're used to could translate into a couple mistakes.
“I felt like I didn't really play my best today but I kept the ball out of some really bad spots. I putted really well. I think I read the greens well. There's quite a bit of break.
“I had a lot of putts that I was playing two, three, four cups outside the hole. But for the most part, I read the greens well, which I translated to seven birdies.”
One hole — the very first — had bogey written all over it. But it quickly translated to birdie.
A drive pushed left and long saw the ball land on the cart path and bounce close a bush leaving the Englishman unable to see the flag.
“Actually I thought it was going to go straight into the bush but it hopped over it,” said Rose.
“I had 186 yards. So I had to cut it around the tree out of the Bermuda grass and over the water. I hit it to a foot.
“As soon as it came off the club I knew it was going to be pretty good, I just didn't realise how good.
“I was just trying to keep the ball dry, obviously I caught a break there.”
With a two-shot lead, Rose believes if he can card another 67 today, he'll be in good position to win the pink jacket.
“It's very weather dependent around this golf course,” he added.
“But say if we have the same as today, if I can shoot another four- or five-under, I might be pretty hard to catch and if someone does catch me, you have to give them credit.
“My job tomorrow (today) is just to go out, have fun again. This is what it's all about, being here and having fun.
“First and foremost, enjoying the reason why you are here (to have won a major) but obviously you do want to play your best and I want to go out and just play a good round.”
Dufner, with the same demeanour and lack of expression regardless of whether he hits a good shot or a poor one — an observation the TV pundits dwell on — was rarely troubled on the front, picking up birdies at two, three, five and eight where he rolled in a 25-footer.
But like Rose he picked up his first bogey on the 10th and dropped two more shots at 15 and 16.
Scott failed to register a single birdie on the closing nine, his demise heightened by the double on 16 where he hit his shot into the front bunker, barely got out and then duffed his chip before finally finding the green.
Harrington's woes continued on the same picturesque hole as he tee shot sailed out to sea, teed up another before scrambling a five.
There was some respite on the par-five 17th where he hit his approach to the green and comfortably made birdie.
But he'll need to make an awful more today.