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The Telegraph

Justin Rose fades away but leaves his mark on Augusta thanks to 11 magical holes

He battled to the very final hole but the truth is, in the end, that’s what it felt like: a battle. After that sensational opening round of 65, when he went nine-under for his last 11 holes, the final three rounds of the 2021 Masters were a grind for Justin Rose. The 2013 US Open champion performed heroics to hang in there for as long as he did. Some of his saves on the back nine on Saturday, in particular, were spectacular. But with Hideki Matsuyama relentless in his quest to become the first Japanese man to win a major, and Will Zalatoris and Xander Schauffele also pulling clear, grinding out pars was never going to cut it. Ultimately, Rose could not manage even that. His final round of 74 for seventh place overall felt a tad harsh considering he had led the tournament for two and a half rounds. But it was a fair reflection of the way he played overall. Those 11 holes on Thursday aside – and remember, he produced them on the toughest day of the week, a day on which only two other players broke 70 – Rose’s game was not as solid as when he finished runner-up in 2015 and 2017. Nor was it fair to expect it to be. Rose arrived at this Masters without any sort of form, having pulled out of last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a back injury. He prepared for the challenge by ‘visualising’ rounds of Augusta in his head while sitting in his trophy room at home. Considering that build-up, the fact that he managed a sixth Masters career top-10 finish this year was nothing short of remarkable. A bogey at the first, where he missed the green with his approach but was unable to produce another heroic up-and-down, was a flavour of things to come as the Englishman began to slip down the leaderboard. Although he bounced straight back with a birdie at the par-five second, further bogeys at three, five and nine, saw Rose go out in 38. And with the dream of a green jacket dying for another year, he seemed to lose heart. He briefly got back to five-under par with a birdie at 13 but by now he was eight shots behind Matsuyama and well out of contention. Bogeys at 15 and 16 were the final nail in the coffin, although he did manage to finish with a final birdie at 18, a long putt from 46 feet, which he followed down to the hole, drawing appreciative applause from the patrons. It must have felt bittersweet. Rose smiled broadly and doffed his cap. But he would have been hoping for so much more at the start of the day. “Weirdly today I felt I played better than I had all week,” he told Sky Sports afterwards. “But the putter went a little cold. It was the kind of day you needed to make a bit of momentum with the blade. Maybe I’d ridden my luck a bit yesterday.” Still, it was a hugely encouraging week given where he began it. “Yes, this is a confidence boost,” he agreed. “I mean, there are still parts of my game I’m not happy with. But plenty of evidence that things are moving in the right direction and I love competing in these tournaments.” Where one Briton departed with a bit of a sour taste, another up-and-coming star left with a hop and a skip. Bob MacIntyre’s debut Masters was nothing short of sensational and it ended with a flourish. A birdie on 18 for a level-par final round of 72 to finish on two-under for the tournament and a share of 12th place.