Justin Rose, Patrick Reed rally in opening round at Bay Hill

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Justin Rose, Patrick Reed rally in opening round at Bay Hill

PGA Tour

Justin Rose, Patrick Reed rally in opening round at Bay Hill

ORLANDO – Six holes into his opening round Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Justin Rose made a choice.

“Tell yourself a different story,” Rose told himself.

He was 4 over a third of the way through his round at Bay Hill, a start that included a triple bogey at the par-4 11th hole, his second of the day, after finding the water left with his approach from a fairway bunker and then missing a 4-footer for double.

“I scratched a line on my scorecard,” Rose said, “and I said, ‘All right, we start something new now, you’re four down to the golf course and if you can get to all square by the end of the day, I think that that will be a decent start to the tournament.’ ”

Rose did much better. After a bogey at the par-4 15th, he birdied Nos. 16 and 17, and then posted five birdies in the first seven holes of his second nine to open the API with a 3-under 69.

Rose’s playing competitor, Patrick Reed, had a better start to the day, birdieing Nos. 13, 15 and 16 to sit 3 under after seven holes. But he too found the water, splashing his approach from the rough into the par-4 18th. He carded a double bogey on the hole, and then followed with bogey at the par-4 first, killing his momentum.

But Reed rebounded, taking some energy from Rose’s comeback to put together a nice closing run of his own. Reed birdied Nos. 2 and 3 before adding three more on the second nine to get in the clubhouse at 4-under 68.

“Justin got off to a rough start, but to be able to bounce back and to make all the birdies toward the end … it just allowed Bubba (Watson) and I to feel very confident oncoming down toward the end that, hey, hit a quality golf shot you’re going to make putts, you’re going to make birdies,” Reed said. “… Once one guy starts making a putt it just seemed to kind of domino effect throughout the group.”

Both Rose and Reed are trending nicely entering next month’s Masters. Rose, who won three times late last year, had been solid but not spectacular to begin the new year. But he played nicely at the Valspar Championship, earning a spot in Sunday’s final group, before shooting 1-over 72 to close and drop to T-5. Still, the finish was his best in four starts in 2018.

“I think that’s what we’re all trying to do is definitely get some looks at the lead and get comfortable on the leaderboard and just get some good kind of feedback on our game and make refinements and tweaks going into the next week,” Rose said. “But for me I took a bit of time off, a month or so ago, and this is my third week in a row and it was important for me to play a few in a row just to get some momentum going.”

Reed had missed three of five cuts entering last week’s event at Innisbrook. He nearly forced a playoff, too, but he bogeyed the final hole after his birdie putt didn’t make it on to the back level of the green and rolled back to his feet. His closing 68 left him at T-2, a shot back of winner Paul Casey.

“It was the first event I’ve played this year where I really felt comfortable that the golf bag was set,” Reed said. “… I hit the ball well last week, I didn’t feel like I made as many putts as I should have, but with that being said, any time you get your self in contention coming down the stretch it’s always fun. I just wish I either hit an iron shot a little harder on 18 or decided to chip it from off the green the first time rather than putting it from off the green.”

Reed is making just his third API start, having missed the cut and tied for 52nd in his previous two trips. Rose, however, has a much better track record at Arnie’s Place with six top-15s, including a runner-up in 2013, in 12 career starts.

After Thursday’s performance, though, both players are in great position to battle for the Peruvian Alpaca cardigan given to the winner on Sunday.

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