Rose relished Bubba challenge

The 34-year-old Englishman opened with a five-under-par 67 that yielded three birdies on each of the nines, coupled with a solitary bogey at the treacherous par-four 11th.

Rose has not had a top-10 finish this season but admits that his game remains in pretty good shape.

The world No 11 and 2013 US Open champion told Sky Sports: “The secret of my success today was feeling good about my game and also getting a good pairing.

“I felt a good energy out there playing with the defending champion Bubba (Watson) and US amateur champion Gunn Yang too.

” I haven???t been in contention this year but the draw got the juices flowing, and I felt I was already in the tournament right from the first hole.

???The key shot for me today was probably the up and down on the fourth ??? the par three.

???I was in-between clubs, went with the shorter club, put it in the bunker, which is a tough up-and-down.

???That bunker shot really settled me down and made me feel I could really put a good score together.

???And sometimes the form doesn???t have to be there to believe you are playing well.???

Two shots behind is compatriot Paul Casey whose only bogey in his 69 came at the final hole.

The rejuvenated Casey, 37, making his first Masters appearance in three years, reached the turn in 33 shots and is well placed at a venue where he tied-for-sixth on his debut 11 years ago.

A visibly delighted Casey, who last represented Europe in the Ryder Cup seven years ago, stressed: ???Very happy with that. Snap hooked it off the first, so any score under 70 after that was going to be a good one.

???Thoroughly enjoyed it, made some putts, did a lot of things right and couldn???t be happier.???

As for returning to Augusta, he added: ???Had some top 10s in the past. Been in contention on the back nine before, so couldn???t wait to get stuck in because I know I have been hitting it pretty well.

???I just wanted to embrace this week and got away with a couple of bad tee shots today and really didn???t feel bothered by them either.

???In the past I may have lost my head but I???m very much relaxed.?????

Another Englishman, Danny Willett, enjoyed a respectable debut with a one-under-par 71 the highlight of which was a superb eagle-three at 15 where he holed out from 60 feet.

The 27-year-old from Sheffield said of his eagle: “It’s the kind of thing you dream of when you’re a kid, boxing a long one across the green.

“Anywhere on that green you know it’s going to be a stupidly breaking putt, but the ball is up somewhere near your kneecaps when you are hitting the second shot so it’s always hard to hit a fade into a back-right flag.???

“The putt had 18 feet of break, it almost comes backwards.”

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