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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Well rested Justin Rose happy to fly 'under the radar' ahead of Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship 2018

In-form Englishman says hiding in plain sight is 'an art form,' and one that he is perfectly happy to have mastered

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 17:  Justin Rose of England stretches on the 18th hole during the pro-am prior to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 17, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 17: Justin Rose of England stretches on the 18th hole during the pro-am prior to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 17, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

When Justin Rose packed away his clubs for his annual winter break in December, he might have needed to handle them with oven gloves, so toasty had they been lately.

The Englishman had been riding the most scalding of hot streaks, a run that saw him win three times, and not finish outside of the top 10 once, in the course of 10 tournaments leading up to the end of 2017.

So good was his form, he might have been minded to carry on regardless, picking up tournaments wherever he could find them, piling on the ranking points, banking the winner’s cheques, and just generally dominating.

Not so. Rose says a winter break is a ritual he needs to maintain the appreciation for what he does for a living.

How best to extend his extraordinary run? Put the feet up and chill, he said, ahead of starting his 2018 campaign at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA.

“I did nothing, really,” said Rose, who will play alongside Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar – the other two players from the 2016 Olympic podium, in Thursday’s opening round.

“I think I put so much effort into the end of the season, not just mentally but physically, I travelled a lot, and went through a lot of time zones.

“So for me it was really important in order to protect and preserve my form, to do nothing, to basically reinvest in myself.

“I stayed in the gym all Christmas, kept the body moving, kept the body fit but didn't really focus too much on the golf side of things. I think that's important.”

Switching off is part of the world No 6’s recipe for excellence. “I think it's really important to miss the game,” Rose said.

“I like to have that itch to play again, then I know it's time to go. So that's normally my formula.

“That's what I did. I knew that I needed to take some time off, but I'm not taking a prolonged break just to keep the momentum up.”

Of all the game-leading stars who have made it to the capital this week, Rose seems to prompt the least conversation.

It is remarkable, really. He is the Olympic gold medallist. He was runner-up in a Masters for the ages last season. He missed out on the Race to Dubai by €50,000 (Dh224,000). He was in ludicrous form before most people shut up shop for Christmas.

It takes a special type of skill to win three times in 10 starts, not finishing outside the top 10 in that time, only just miss out on being the European Tour’s leading player, and still arrive at places under the radar.

The National Course - hole by hole

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Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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The fact is he is neither the world No 1 (Dustin Johnson), nor the Tour’s top player (Tommy Fleetwood beat him to that by a wafer-thin margin at the end of last season). Nor is he Rory McIlroy. And he did not holiday in Patagonia, like Abu Dhabi new-boy Matt Kuchar.

So Rose will just have to content himself with just being the most in-form player in the game.

And not just here in Abu Dhabi. When golf gears up for the major campaign, starting at Augusta in April, Rose is unlikely to be among the most talked about players then, either.

He says hiding in plain sight is “an art form,” and one that he is perfectly happy to have mastered.

“I'm more than happy with that, absolutely,” Rose said. “Your clubs do the talking at the end of the day. The golf course doesn't recognise who is No 1 in the world.

“You've got to build a new body of work every single week. There's no point in talking about it. It's just a matter of trying to do it.

“Under the radar is good. If I am No 1 in the world going into majors, then that would be my same mind-set: the course won't recognise that. The fact is it's every single week you've got to focus on your game and your process, no matter what.”

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Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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