He battled to the very final hole but the truth is, in the end, that's what it felt like: a battle. After that sensational opening round of 65, when he went nine-under for his last 11 holes, the final three rounds of the 2021 Masters were a grind for Justin Rose.
The 2013 US Open champion performed heroics to hang in there for as long as he did. Some of his saves on the back nine on Saturday, in particular, were spectacular. But with Hideki Matsuyama relentless in his quest to become the first Japanese man to win a major, and Will Zalatoris and Xander Schauffele also pulling clear, grinding out pars was never going to cut it.
Ultimately, Rose could not manage even that. His final round of 74 for seventh place overall felt a tad harsh considering he had led the tournament for two and a half rounds. But it was a fair reflection of the way he played overall. Those 11 holes on Thursday aside - and remember, he produced them on the toughest day of the week, a day on which only two other players broke 70 - Rose's game was not as solid as when he finished runner-up in 2015 and 2017.
Nor was it fair to expect it to be. Rose arrived at this Masters without any sort of form, having pulled out of last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a back injury. He prepared for the challenge by ‘visualising’ rounds of Augusta in his head while sitting in his trophy room at home. Considering that build-up, the fact that he managed a sixth Masters career top-10 finish this year was nothing short of remarkable.
A bogey at the first, where he missed the green with his approach but was unable to produce another heroic up-and-down, was a flavour of things to come as the Englishman began to slip down the leaderboard.
Although he bounced straight back with a birdie at the par-five second, further bogeys at three, five and nine, saw Rose go out in 38. And with the dream of a green jacket dying for another year, he seemed to lose heart.
He briefly got back to five-under par with a birdie at 13 but by now he was eight shots behind Matsuyama and well out of contention. Bogeys at 15 and 16 were the final nail in the coffin, although he did manage to finish with a final birdie at 18, a long putt from 46 feet, which he followed down to the hole, drawing appreciative applause from the patrons. It must have felt bittersweet. Rose smiled broadly and doffed his cap. But he would have been hoping for so much more at the start of the day.
"Weirdly today I felt I played better than I had all week," he told Sky Sports afterwards. "But the putter went a little cold. It was the kind of day you needed to make a bit of momentum with the blade. Maybe I'd ridden my luck a bit yesterday."
Still, it was a hugely encouraging week given where he began it. "Yes, this is a confidence boost," he agreed. "I mean, there are still parts of my game I'm not happy with. But plenty of evidence that things are moving in the right direction and I love competing in these tournaments."
Where one Briton departed with a bit of a sour taste, another up-and-coming star left with a hop and a skip. Bob MacIntyre’s debut Masters was nothing short of sensational and it ended with a flourish. A birdie on 18 for a level-par final round of 72 to finish on two-under for the tournament and a share of 12th place.
MacIntyre will almost certainly qualify by right for next year’s tournament, but with top 12 and ties earning their return for 2022 automatically, it was a fitting reward for a player many are now tipping to be a bolter for this autumn’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
Padraig Harrington was not present in Augusta but it would be fascinating to hear the Ryder Cup captain’s thoughts on the young lefty who only secured his invitation to Augusta at the 11th hour after breaking into the world’s top 50 a few weeks ago. The 24-year-old looks to have both the temperament and the game for Ryder Cup duties. And having disposed of world No 1 Dustin Johnson at last month’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship we already know he relishes taking American scalps.
“Obviously I’m delighted," he said. "I’m disappointed with the way I finished [bogeys at 16 and 17 prior to the final birdie] but I’ve got to take the positives. I’d never been here before. I’d only ever played this course on a computer game with my pals. It’s completely different being here in the battle.”
Asked what he would out of the week, MacIntyre smiled: “That I can compete. Matchplay is a different beast. It’s one-to-one, you never know what your opponent is going to do. They could play poorly and you beat them that day.
“But I’m competing against the best guys in the world now. Playing in Europe is slightly different. You don’t get to experience it week in week out. If I’d known this golf course more and more, who knows, maybe I could have been up there competing. But just now I’m happy enough with the way I played.”