Augusta National was proving an incredibly tough challenge for the first Major Championship of the 2021 Race to Dubai, with firm and fast conditions meaning just three players managed to break 70 in Georgia.
Rose did not look like he would be one of them at two over after seven holes but an eagle on the eighth proved to be the turning point and he would birdie seven of his next nine holes to get to seven under and open up a commanding lead.
It meant that the Englishman led or co-led the Masters for the sixth time in his career, the most by any player to have not won the event.
His tie for second at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers is his only top ten since last year's US PGA Championship but the former World Number One - who now sits 41st in the Official World Golf Ranking - looked truly back to his brilliant best as he goes in search of a second Major Championship.
“I guess the good news is I don’t know what happened, that’s often when you play your best golf and get into the nice rhythm or flow,” Rose said.
“I didn’t panic being two over through seven. I knew this was a day not to play yourself out of the tournament; the course had a lot of teeth to it.
“The pins were relatively fair so good golf shots could be rewarded and to be nine under for my last 11, you can never quite see that coming here at Augusta National.
"I've competed in these big tournaments quite a few times and I've got one of them to my name but we're looking for more.
"But I've had some situations in my career that should stand me in good stead. I think to keep the expectations relatively low even in this situation is not a bad thing for me for the remainder of the week and just keep it one shot at a time, keep committing on this golf course you can never get ahead of yourself on, we've seen it many times around here.
"But it's all about commitment and I think it's about enjoying it. I'm obviously walking the walk with (caddie David) Clarky and just trying to really enjoy being out here.
"I think being grateful to be out there today after a month off was kind of part of the mindset today. So it would be crazy to try and change that too much going into tomorrow."
American Brian Harman and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama shared second at three under, a shot clear of three more Americans in Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson and Will Zalatoris, and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
After bogeys on the first and seventh, Rose was in need of inspiration and he got it on the eighth as he got a good bounce and saw his second roll up to nine feet to set up an eagle.
Ever have one of those rounds of golf when you’re so frustrated at this stupid game for not giving you what you deserve? Then, just when you're about to lose it, you hit THE shot that makes you realise why you're so hopelessly in love with it! #themasters pic.twitter.com/2rtNDT5NVT— Tommy Fleetwood (@TommyFleetwood1) April 8, 2021
An approach to four feet on the ninth had him under par at the turn and he was chasing down the leaders when he holed from 26 feet on the next.
A tee shot to six feet at the 12th was followed by a smart up-and-down at the par five next and Rose was in the lead.
Another up-and-down - this time from the sand - on the par five 15th had him two clear and a tee shot to 14 feet on the 16th was followed by an approach to five feet on the penultimate hole as Rose took total command.
Tommy Fleetwood was then at two over with the help of his second hole-in-one in as many events at the 16th.