x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Justin Rose's major hopes are out in the open

The Englishman has experienced the highs and lows and is confident of success in 2013 after his Ryder Cup and Race to Dubai exploits, writes John McAuley

As an amateur, a young Justin Rose announced his talent by sinking a massive 50 approach shot on the 18th hole of the 1998 British Open at the Royal Birkdale and turned professional the next day. Paul Vicente / AFP
As an amateur, a young Justin Rose announced his talent by sinking a massive 50 approach shot on the 18th hole of the 1998 British Open at the Royal Birkdale and turned professional the next day. Paul Vicente / AFP

With two tournaments still remaining on his 2012 schedule, Justin Rose is already looking forward to next season. He is expecting sustained success.

"I take a lot of confidence from this year being my most consistent so far," said Rose, having departed Sunday's DP World Tour Championship with further endorsement of his ability.

The South-African born Englishman produced, in the words of the caddie Mark Fulcher, "the greatest round of golf I've ever seen" to set an Earth Course record and post a clubhouse lead overhauled only by the brilliance of Rory McIlroy.

Rose's runner-up finish secured second in the Race to Dubai and his 13th top 10 this season, a campaign that includes a victory at the illustrious WGC-Cadillac Championship.

There is an accepted natural next step.

"If you look at the progression of the events I've won, it leads to a major," he said. "It doesn't mean majors are going to happen, or I'm solely focused on them.

"You've got to become a prolific winner before you start looking at the majors. But I definitely want to be fully prepared for them next year."

Rose enjoyed his most consistent major season in 2007, highlighted by a tied-fifth at the Masters. That year he would be crowned, just as McIlroy was at the weekend, the European No 1.

Yet it is perhaps the 1998 British Open for which he is most remembered. As an amateur, and weeks before his 18th birthday, Rose holed an approach from 50 yards on his final hole at Royal Birkdale to finish tied-fourth.

The sport woke to a teenager of considerable talent; the following day he turned professional.

However, Rose then missed 21 consecutive cuts and, having earned his European Tour card, his playing privileges were quickly revoked.

The experience, he says, proved an invaluable foundation to a career that now boasts eight professional victories across golf's two main circuits.

After a standout Sunday in Dubai, the world rankings hold Rose, 32, at a career-high No 4.

"It's definitely helped me appreciate the good times and keeps me honest. I won't rest on my laurels," he said. "I don't take this game for granted. It can be very humbling, very fragile.

"That part of my life had a lot of effect on me, but it's in the past. It feels like another lifetime ago. What got me through was looking at continual improvement and, to this day, I still try to work on that."

Even before his Birkdale breakthrough, Rose had decided to join the professional ranks, revealing a three-year plan was always in place to prepare himself for a prolonged future in the game.

"Then the Open happened and my expectations changed, as did everybody else's," he said. "That made it tough. I kept trying to live up to that, people talked about me being a flash in the pan and I tried to prove them wrong.

"It got to the point where my momentum was nosediving. So I thought: 'OK, let's take the Open out of the equation and what am I left with? I'm a golfer who's been a great player since 12, all the time winning tournaments way ahead of my age group, and the youngest ever Walker Cup player. That tells me I'm good at the game, I've got talent. If I take those qualities and work hard surely, ultimately, I have to come out the other end.'

"Unfortunately, the Open ended up being the skewing factor. What should've been the greatest thing turned out to be the worst. But now I can enjoy it again, look back and think 'Wow, what a cool achievement'."

His position on golf's grandest stage now accepted Rose, understandably, sees a 2013 soaked in success.

He says McIlroy, "the undeniable world No 1", represents a significant obstacle, although confidence gleaned from last month's epic fightback against Phil Mickelson in Ryder Cup singles - Rose holed sublime putts on the closing two holes to gain a precious point for Europe - ensures it is a challenge he embraces.

"I learnt a lot about myself at the Ryder Cup," he said. "I want to sit down towards the end of the year and reminisce about what happened, soak that in and harness the belief that, when I'm in that situation in a major, I can pull out those shots when required.

"The Ryder Cup creates an atmosphere and a uniqueness in which we thrive, and an intensity in which we play, that you can't replicate anywhere else. It's so electrically charged that it channels you in a different way.

"A major championship, you feel the same pressure, but there's not that on-course excitement. Yet knowing I've been nervous, shaking like a leaf and made the best putts of my career, I realise in majors I'm going to feel those type of nerves and that pressure but can still execute."

A campaign that begins for the first time in Abu Dhabi promises much. Rose's predicted prosperity is rooted in major ambition.

 

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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