Rose inspired by Watson to silence Monster’s roar

 

Doral

It says much about the rude health of British golf that a competitor of the quality of Justin Rose can climb his way towards the top of a big-time leaderboard being accompanied only by the merest strains of "Rule Britannia". If he was a tennis player, Rose would be an ever-present in the headlines.

As it is, England's former boy wonder is forced to shoot a 64 to divert the attention from the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. By moving to 11-under and into contention at the WGC Cadillac Championship, Rose left the world's top three behind in the pack. However, his achievement in reducing the course called the "Blue Monster" to a pink fluffy teddy bear was cast into the shade by the exploits of his playing partner. Bubba Watson, he of the odd swing and the even odder behaviour, fired a 62 to grab the halfway advantage at 12-under, with Adam Scott, on 10-under, in third.

What a fourball this would have been. The Watson-Rose betterball was 13-under, a 59, while if they were playing matchplay Rose would have lost despite being eight-under. Frankly, this was obscene scoring in conditions which were admittedly tamer than Thursday but still far from straightforward. Doral was not a doddle. It just seemed that way.

"It was a fun day of golf," said Rose, the world No 22, who will play with Watson again today. "It was nice to be in such a hot pairing with Bubba. When you see other guys making putts, making birdies, hitting iron shots close, sometimes you feed off it. I said to Mark Wilson [the third player in their group who shot a 70] 'Dude, you must be black and blue'."

So Tiger Woods has a seven-shot deficit to make up if he is to win his 17th WGC event and his first official title in more than two years. His 67 took him to five-under and he felt that it was an opportunity missed. "That is the highest score I could have shot today for sure," said Woods after his bogey-free round. He drove the ball well, but was let down by the putter. "I hit pure putts," he said. "I hit them right on line but they just kept lipping out. This course could certainly be had today."

Watson proved so. His American insularity often grates – particularly at the French Open last year when he managed to display disregard for most of Paris's history – but with a driver in his hand he is riveting. Rose's round was all the more commendable because he spent the day conceding 10s of yards to Watson off the tee. There was no shame of that. It was like being embarrassed over hair-length with Samson. "Bubba does it a little differently to the way I do," said Rose with a smirk ."He takes some lines that I simply don't have in the locker."

On the second (their 11th) Watson drove to within 20 yards of the green. That hole measures 418 yards. He was just as monstrous into the wind. On the fourth he hit it 321 yards into the very teeth of it. Watson, whose unique action completely fits in with the fact he is self-taught, possesses the power to turn par fives into relatively easy par fours. For instance, on the penultimate hole, the 560-yard eighth, he struck a three-iron 225 yards directly into the wind to six feet. That effectively handed him the advantage over Rose, who could only make a par. Watson's 10-under magnificence featured nine biridies, the eagle and a solitary bogey and was so entertaining. "I don't care, I still don't like this golf course," said Watson, as weird as ever. "It doesn't suit me."

Rose was not about to moan. He tied for fifth at last week's Honda Classic, where he held the halfway lead, and arrived in Miami confident of making a good run for his first WGC title. "I've felt a lot more comfortable with the putter this week – again," he said. "I think that's an area of my game that's been getting better and better."

Rose has proved himself to be a PGA Tour winner these last two years, during which time has collected a hat-trick of titles. None of his compatriots have won three times in America in this period.

Yet they have been more consistent and Donald could yet curtail McIlroy's first reign at the top to one week. A 68 took him to six-under and into the top 10. Depending on where McIlroy fares he could finish in the top four and claim back the throne. McIlroy bogeyed the last for a 70 to stand at two-under, while Westwood fought back after an opening 76 with a 67 to hurtle up to one-under.

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