Rose boosts fight-back hopes

Justin Rose fired a first-round seven-under 65 to put himself strongly in contention at the Portugal Masters.

Justin Rose, unsure what the future holds for him on the European Tour, took a big step towards easing his worries with a seven-under-par 65 at the Portugal Masters on Thursday.
Playing in just his second event in Europe since last October, Rose is in a tie for second place – two shots behind Italian Francesco Molinari – after the opening round at the Oceanico Victoria Club in Vilamoura.
Molinari equalled the lowest round of his Tour career with a stunning 9-under 63 and will now be hoping there is no repeat of what happened after his last 63.
That was at the Irish Open in May and he was disqualified the following day for signing for the wrong score in his second round.
Foul weather then meant that playing partner and marker Peter Hanson waited to get out of the rain to fill in scores on the 26-year-old’s card, but he got two the wrong way round and Molinari did not spot it.
Not this time.
“I checked the scorecard three of four times today to make sure that didn’t happen again,” he said.
In the battle for the Tour number one spot, meanwhile, Lee Westwood improved his hopes with a 66 – despite being stung by a wasp – as current leader Rory McIlroy finished with meadiocre 3-under 69, this after he had been four under after five.
Two years ago Rose won the Order of Merit and at sixth in the world was Europe’s leading light, while last September he won three out of four points on his Ryder Cup debut.
Now, with only one top-10 finish since he was runner-up to McIlroy in Dubai in February, he is 58th on the money list and, of more immediate concern to him, down to 62nd on the world rankings.
Falling outside the top 50 there means he could miss out on majors and world championships next season.
And that in turn will make it harder for him to remain a member of both the American and European circuits, especially if or when stricter rules are brought in on this side of the Atlantic.
“Yes, I really want to – and the Ryder Cup next year is a big drawcard,” said the 29-year-old when asked if he will do whatever is required of him to keep his European Tour card.
“But at the end of the day I’ve got to do what’s good for me and my family. Florida is my base – I can’t say on my heart it’s home, but from a practical point of view that’s where home is.
“Dropping out of the top 50 puts me in a precarious position and my goal is to get back in it. Then I can play the schedule I want to.”
Rose, who became a father in February, was therefore as interested as anyone to discover the outcome of tonight’s players committee meeting, where the items on the agenda included a proposal to ask players to commit to more “core” events in Europe.
“It certainly would not make my life easier and I’m not singing and dancing about it,” he said after a round spoilt only by a bogey six on the long 12th.
He was already five under when that came and three more birdies followed, the best of them a six-iron to 18 inches on the 463-yard last – a hole that saw several sixes, a seven and also an eight.
Unlike McIlroy, Molinari made the most of his fast start. After three birdies and an eagle in the first five holes he then grabbed five more birdies in an inward 31.
One of those to take six on the 18th was Welshman Bradley Dredge. Back on the course where he won the World Cup with Stephen Dodd in 2005, he had just eagled the previous hole to reach eight under, but then finished alongside Westwood by dropping to joint fifth.
Padraig Harrington, opposed to the possible new regulation and invited to speak to the committee, was in the water for bogeys on the 17th and 18th having started on the back nine, but then covered the front nine in 33 for a 69.
Of more concern to him than those two shots was his putting. He went back to the club with which he won his three majors, but struggled with its extra length.
Alongside Rose in second spot are Scot Alastair Forsyth and South African Charl Schwartzel.
Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie had hopes of being on the same mark after sharing the early lead at five under with six to go. That has not happened for a long time, but he finished with a 68.
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):

63 Francesco Molinari (Ita)
65 Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Alastair Forsyth
66 Pablo Martin (Spa), Mark Foster, Mads Vibe-Hastrup (Den), Simon Khan, Bradley Dredge, Lee Westwood
67 Felipe Aguilar (Chi), Jose-Filipe Lima (Por), Anton Haig (Rsa), Oliver Wilson, Marcel Siem (Ger), Oliver Fisher
68 Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (Fra), Robert Jan Derksen (Ned), Retief Goosen (Rsa), Colin Montgomerie, Phillip Price, Scott Drummond, Ben Curtis (USA), Peter Lawrie, Alvaro Quiros (Spa), Tiago Cruz (Por), Anthony Wall, Marc Warren, Jean-Francois Lucquin (Fra), Miles Tunnicliff, Gregory Havret (Fra)
69 Damien McGrane, Anders Hansen (Den), Pelle Edberg (Swe), Danny Willett, Peter Hedblom (Swe), John Bickerton, Johan Edfors (Swe), Rory McIlroy, Shiv Kapur (Ind), Francois Delamontagne (Fra), Gareth Maybin, Paul Waring, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Darren Clarke, Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg), Paul Lawrie, Ignacio Garrido (Spa), Padraig Harrington, Ross McGowan
70 Mikael Lundberg (Swe), Simon Dyson, Antonio Rosado (Por), Pablo Larrazabal (Spa), Jose Manuel Lara (Spa), Robert Rock, Alexander Noren (Swe), Shaun Micheel (USA), Shane Lowry, Oskar Henningsson (Swe), Marcus Fraser (Aus), Jose maria Joia (Por), Paul Broadhurst, Daniel Vancsik (Arg), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa), Ricardo Santos (Por), Tano Goya (Arg), Paul McGinley
71 Mikko Ilonen (Fin), James Kingston (Rsa), Martin Erlandsson (Swe), Robert Dinwiddie, Simon Wakefield, Peter Hanson (Swe), Stephen Dodd, Alejandro Canizares (Spa), Rafael Cabrera Bello (Spa), Steve Webster, Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Michael Campbell (Nzl), Magnus A Carlsson (Swe), David Lynn, Andrew McLardy (Rsa), Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Taco Remkes (Ned), Jamie Donaldson, Phillip Archer, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par), Jyoti Randhawa (Ind)
72 Christian Nilsson (Swe), Jarmo Sandelin (Swe), Maarten Lafeber (Ned), Rafael Echenique (Arg), Mark Brown (Nzl), Gary Murphy, Thomas Bjorn (Den), Richard Finch, Antonio Sobrinho (Por)
73 Gary Lockerbie, Brett Rumford (Aus), Robert Karlsson (Swe), Jeppe Huldahl (Den), Ross Fisher, Sam Little, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)
74 Christian Cevaer (Fra), Nuno Campino (Por), Graeme McDowell, Benn Barham, David Howell, Niclas Fasth (Swe), David Dixon, Lee Slattery
75 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Chapchai Nirat (Tha), Emanuele Canonica (Ita), Thomas Levet (Fra), Barry Lane, Peter O’Malley (Aus)
76 Hennie Otto (Rsa), David Drysdale, Michael Jonzon (Swe)
77 Graeme Storm
79 Kenneth Ferrie
80 Tiago Rodrigues (Por)