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Justin Rose watches his drive on the 17th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Friday. He finished the second round 8-under and sits atop the leader board.
Justin Rose watches his drive on the 17th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Friday. He finished the second round 8-under and sits atop the leader board.

Short-term memory serves Justin Rose well in Abu Dhabi

Englishman has an up-and-down history at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship but leads this year's event after Friday's second round, writes Steve Elling.

ABU DHABI // To understand the incredible apex to which the world No 5 Justin Rose has climbed, you have to understand the nadir.

Interesting, they both involve the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

You cannot know where you are going until you know where you have been? For Rose, it seems like it is the same desert locale.

A dozen years ago, when the course was opening, Rose was hired to appear at a ribbon-cutting of sorts after competing in the 2000 Dubai Desert Classic. At that point in his career, he not only wasn't a complete package, he was mostly a batch of broken parts.

After turning professional amid much fanfare at age 17, he missed his first 21 professional cuts, and had to go back to European Tour qualifying school in the autumn of 2009. Depending on how the story is recalled, when Rose played a few weeks later at what is now the home venue of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, he was hitting the ball so poorly, he did not complete the round.

When the 32-year-old English star arrived here this week, he was reminded of the outing - he had played alongside several media types who were invited for the club unveiling. He had virtually no recollection of it, which is just as well, given the state of his game at the time.

"I think that's possibly one of my greatest strengths, I don't remember that," Rose said, drawing huge laughs. Why would he care to? Not many players, even on the top shelf of the game, are playing better than Rose these days.

Rose shot a 3-under 69 in the second round and will take a one-stroke lead into the final 36 holes as he seeks his first victory in the UAE after finishing second at two different events in Dubai.

When it comes to negative experiences, like with most athletes, it pays to have a short memory. That day in Abu Dhabi 12 years ago might as well not have happened, his career was at such low ebb.

"It's been shelved very deep somewhere back in here," he said, waving a hand behind him, as if he was swatting a fly. "I don't even want to dig that deep to remember if you don't mind."

Staying in the moment, while it ranks as one of the game's ultimate clichés, is a much better place for the Englishman, who shot 62 in the final round in Dubai eight weeks ago to finish second.

Hesitant as he is to look in the rear-view mirror, he was not much more disposed to look at the next 36 holes and a potential victory, either.

"I'm not even looking that far ahead," Rose said. "You know, I like to look at the big picture and if I live and die by this result, it gets in the way of the rest of the season. I am looking to build and build."

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