Rose blooms on a dull day at the Masters in Augusta

Augusta, April 6:

The cheers broke the morning calm at Augusta National when Arnold Palmer took a mighty swing at his ceremonial tee shot. For the next 11 hours on Thursday, the Masters went mute.

Justin Rose was as proud of his 15 pars as his three birdies in a round of 69, which left him atop the leaderboard with Masters rookie Brett Wetterich. It was the highest score to lead the first round at the Masters in eight years.

Tiger Woods tossed away a solid round with bogeys on his final two holes for a 73.

Phil Mickelson shot a 76, his worst start at the Masters in 10 years, and still was optimistic about winning another green jacket.

Never mind that no one has ever won the Masters after opening with a score worse than 75.

Birdies were rare. And the so-called “cathedral of golf” was every bit of that for one reason. It was quiet.

Maybe it was pleasant for the nine players who managed to break par, a group that included Howell and David Toms at 70, and Rich Beem, Tim Clark, JJ Henry, Zach Johnson and Augusta resident Vaughn Taylor at 71.

It was a nightmare for the dozen players who couldn’t break 80. The average score of the day was 76.187, highest in the last four years.

Rose hasn’t played in five weeks while taking care of a sore back, and put together the most remarkable round because it contained no bogeys. He hit a wedge to tap-in range at No 3, holed a bunker shot on No 5 and rolled in a 15-foot birdie from the fringe on No 14.

Bidding to become only the fourth repeat winner at the Masters, Mickelson was even par through three holes and, after missing the green on the par-3 fourth, chipped to 4 feet. But he missed that putt, and it spiraled out of control from there. Mickelson shot 40 on the front. Birdies on the 15th and 16th, and scrambling pars on the final two holes put him at 76.