Justin Rose is Set for Major Summer
JUSTIN ROSE was just 17 years old when he captured the hearts of a nation at The Open Championship in 1998, holing his approach from the rough at the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale to finish fourth. Days later he turned professional and so began a miserable period when the young Englishman, with his father Ken constantly by his side, went on to miss his fist 21 consecutive cuts.
He was dismissed as being a flash in the pan. The reality has turned out to be very different. His mistake was in turning professional at such a tender age. He now admits that he should have remained within the amateur ranks for another couple of years. Instead, he was forced to learn his trade amid the unremitting and unforgiving glare of publicity, with the world’s media turning the spotlight on every mistake he made - until eventually they gave up on him.
But Rose never stopped believing and his victory at the Fort Worth Invitational at the notoriously difficult Colonial Country Club may well have been his crowning glory. It was his ninth victory on the PGA Tour, taking him level with Nick Faldo and he achieved it in incredible fashion, shooting rounds of 66, 64, 66 and 64. On the final day he was playing alongside Brooks Koepka, who finished the week with a 63 and still finished three shots adrift of Rose.
Koepka, lest we forget, is the US Open champion and is currently playing some of the best golf of his life after recovering from a wrist injury. He said of Rose’s performance: “Justin was just so impressive. It’s really hard to defend a lead when somebody is coming at you like I was."
Of course he will always treasure his victory in the US Open at Merion in 2013 because players are measured by the majors they won, but Colonial was special. It is known throughout golf as the home of the legendary Ben Hogan - in fact, the tough finishing stretch is known as Hogan’s Alley. “When they gave me the trophy the first name I saw was Hogan’s. I am so proud to be a part of that history and tradition now. The way I won, I think it’s very fitting for a place called Hogan’s Alley."
He had to wait until 2002 for his first victory, which came at the Dunhill Championship in South Africa and was followed later the same year with a win at the British Masters. Incredibly, his next victory did not come along until the 2007 season, when he took the MasterCard Masters and the season-ending Volvo Masters to win the European Tour’s order of merit.
But it is his record on the PGA Tour that makes him stand out. His first victory on the other side of the pond came at the 2010 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village and was followed later the same year with another win, this time at the AT&T National. He won again in 2011 and in 2012 claimed his first success in a World Golf Championship event, the WGC-Cadillac. Then came the 2013 US Open, the 2014 Quicken Loans and the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
While many of the world’s best players opted to give the Olympic Games a miss, Rose headed off to Rio to represent England and claimed the gold medal after producing a stunning display to see off the challenge of Henrik Stenson. He later said that winning the gold medal was a source of more pride than anything else he had achieved in the game.
And his form during this 2017-18 season has been simply sensational. He has already won twice, at the WGC-HSBC Champions where he defeated Stenson, Koepka and then world number one Dustin Johnson by two shots, before adding the title at Colonial. He also threw in the Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour in November for good measure and came within a whisker of overtaking Tommy Fleetwood at the top of the Race to Dubai.
Rose will turn 38 in July and is at the absolute peak of his powers. He may not be the most naturally gifted player in the world, but he is certainly one of the hardest workers and since the end of 2017 he has at last discovered something on the greens that has now taken him to third in the world rankings and with a proper chance of reaching the top spot before the summer is out.
It is worth taking a little time to look at some of his statistics. In 315 appearances on the PGA Tour, Rose has had 12 runner-up finishes, 10 third places and 84 top 10s. In other words, he finishes in contention more than once in every four events he plays. He has also managed to accumulate more than $45m in prize money in the United States alone.
It is notable that Rose tends to do well on tough courses, something that is not missed on the player. “If you look at the courses where I’ve won, this victory at Colonial definitely strengthens that group even more. I am very happy my game has turned up and I have been inspired by these great venues.”
There will be those who will point to his record in the majors and say that he has under-achieved. That is nonsense. He has twice finished second at The Masters. In 2015 he had the misfortune to come up against the juggernaut that was Jordan Spieth, and last year he took Sergio Garcia to a playoff. It is a mark of the class of the man that despite losing to the Spaniard, he was able to embrace him and tell him that he was genuinely pleased that Garcia had finally removed the monkey from his back. He is a class act.
If there is something missing in his career it is at The Open. His performance as a 17-year-old still remains his best to date. But here’s the thing: the 2018 Open Championship returns to Carnoustie, one of the toughest courses on the planet. Justin Rose loves tough golf courses. Don’t bet against him finally picking up the Claret Jug at this iconic links. And nobody would be a more deserving winner.
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