Justin Rose seems pretty comfortable with life as a free agent.
The former world No. 1 shined Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge, firing a bogey-free 63 to take a one-shot lead after the morning wave. The low score shouldn't be a surprise given the clinical performance Rose authored at this event two years ago, shooting four straight rounds of 66 or better to cruise to a three-shot win.
But the Englishman had been struggling before the Tour's three-month hiatus, and last month he officially announced his split from equipment manufacturer Honma. Rose signed with the Japanese company in 2019, winning at Torrey Pines last year in his second start with the clubs, but has largely struggled since while falling from first to 14th in the world rankings.
Rose played with gear from multiple manufacturers in his most recent start at Bay Hill, the first sign of an impending split from Honma. He has maintained a mixed bag this week at Colonial, albeit with a heavy influence from TaylorMade, whose equipment he used for the first two decades of his pro career.
"I spent a lot of years at TaylorMade, so I felt like I needed just to get a bit of a baseline on my game, and using the (TaylorMade) SIM driver, SIM 3-wood, got a little Cobra 5-wood in there, which has been a nice find," Rose told reporters. "And then P730s through the bag and then (Titleist) Vokey wedges, and then my Axis1 putter, which has been a staple for me the last couple of years."
Rose started on the back nine and birdied three of his first four holes, making the turn in 4-under 31. He added three more birdies from there and picked up nearly 3.3 strokes against the field on the greens. After missing the cut in three of four PGA Tour starts this year, he appears likely to stay through the weekend in Fort Worth.
"The good thing is I feel like I didn't max everything out today," Rose said. "Yes, my short game was good, my putting was good, but I feel like there's another level there or another gear or two with the long game."