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Rose gets off to a flying start in PGA Tour's return to action

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Rory McIlroy must work his way into the mix after a two-under 68. Photo: Getty

Rory McIlroy must work his way into the mix after a two-under 68. Photo: Getty

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Rory McIlroy must work his way into the mix after a two-under 68. Photo: Getty

From lockdown to lift-off. Justin Rose shrugged off the enforced three-month break - and indeed some pretty ropey form before that - to be the man to catch at the Charles Schwab Challenge courtesy of a brilliant 63.

What a way to mark the opening day of the PGA Tour's grand return. Rose won at Colonial two years ago but few expected this.

On a still Texas morning, ideal for scoring, Rose's performance deserved an ovation, but with no fans allowed he had to make do with the congratulations from playing partners Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

It looked surreal and Rose admitted it felt "weird", but the 39-year-old coped remarkably. And what made his display all the more commendable was the fact that last month he split with Honma, the Japanese club-manufacturer, a year after signing a 10-year, multi-million deal.

Now a free agent, Rose has chosen largely to go back to TaylorMade, with which he won a Major, Olympic gold and went to the top of the rankings. Rose was world No 1 as recently as February last year, but his game has tailed off and he arrived at Colonial 14th in the rankings and way down the FedEx standings. Rose sensed the urgency.

His work began with a 30-footer from off the green on his first hole, the par-four 10th. There were back-to-back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th (his third and fourth) and another on the par-three 16th.

On his second nine, Rose kept up the pace, birdieing the first three holes. He parred in, missing opportunities on his 15th and 17th holes (the sixth and eighth) but he was hardly about to moan.

If it is hardly unusual to see Rose at the top of the leaderboard, then the sight of DeChambeau raised many eyebrows. The American outdrove not only Rose but also Johnson after bulking up from a medium shirt size to an extra-large. A 65 put the American two behind Rose and Harold Varner III who would join the English man at the top of the leaderboard last night.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy, however, must work his way into contention after a round of two-under 68, picking up three birdies and one bogey for his debut at Colonial.

Meanwhile, Open Champion Shane Lowry must also improve after a one-over 71 as Graeme McDowell fared better, carding 69.

At 8.46am the field observed a moment of silence for George Floyd, whose killing by a policeman in Minnesota has sparked worldwide protests. The time represents the eight minutes and 46 seconds in which the officer held a knee to Floyd's neck.

Charles Schwab Challenge

Live, Sky Sports, 9.0pm

Irish Independent