London: Justin Rose justified his billing as pre-tournament favourite by setting the pace on day one of the British Masters at The Belfry on Thursday.
The English world number 31, the top-ranked player in the field, carded eight birdies and a solitary bogey to record a seven-under-par 65 and enjoy a one-shot lead over former Ryder Cup team-mate Jamie Donaldson.
Welshman Donaldson birdied five of the last six holes in his 66, with Germany's Yannik Paul, English pair John Gough and James Morrison, Spain's Sebastian Garcia and Frenchman Adrien Saddier all on four under.
"I felt very comfortable with my game from the first shot," said former US Open champion Rose, 42, who won the British Masters in 2002.
"I hit a beautiful little wedge into the 10th hole, made a nice birdie there and I think that's the cleanest round of golf I've played in a long, long time."
Donaldson was just one under par after 12 holes of his round before picking up shots on the 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th.
"Nothing was going in, it was all a bit slow at the start and suddenly it all kicked in on the back nine," the 47-year-old said. "Five in six holes to finish, so yeah, fantastic."
Defending champion Thorbjorn Olesen is five shots off the lead after an opening round of 70. __ AFP