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Chipping In - Rose Back in Business

By: Golf Shake | Tue 01 Jul 2014

Chipping In is a weekly feature from Golf Journalist Nick Bonfield

Justin Rose has been relatively quiet this year for his high standards, but he surged back into the winner’s circle with a fine performance in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club – one of the hardest courses on the PGA Tour roster. He showed brilliant resolve to keep himself in the hunt over the last two holes, sinking a 10-footer for par at 17 before holing a slick 15-foot putt from the back of 18 to salvage a dramatic bogey after finding water with his second shot. Credit must go to Shawn Stefani, who also posted a final round 70 in tough conditions, but, in truth, there was only ever one winner of the ensuing play-off.

The Englishman has established himself as a brilliant performer in events that present an exacting test, a statement vindicated by his record. Aside from the US Open – a tournament widely accepted to be the most strenuous test in golf – his victory tally on the PGA Tour makes for impressive reading. He’s now won six times: The Quicken Loans National, the US Open, The WGC-Cadillac, The Memorial, The AT&T National and the BMW Championship - a very strong selection indeed. What’s more, he’s now won on the PGA Tour each of the last five seasons, and Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, the only two players with bigger active streaks, will have to register victories in the latter half of the year if they have aspirations of keeping their records alive. That statistic isn’t only indicative of talent; it also reveals a lot about training, practice, work ethic, desire and mental strength.


Rose has now all-but secured his third Ryder Cup berth (you’d assume he’d be a nailed-on captain’s pick, even if he didn’t qualify automatically) and put himself in a great position to challenge at the Open Championship in a couple of weeks. You can be assured a significant amount of money will be staked on Rose.

Open Qualifying success

It was unfortunate for Shawn Stefani, who came within inches of winning the tournament in regulation play, but, thanks to a shrewd and praiseworthy initiative, he has something to fall back on. The Quicken Loans National formed part of the Open Championship qualifying series, where spots were made available at select events around the world to those finishing high up on the leaderboard who hadn’t already qualified. Much like the FedEx Cup play-offs, this new series – which replaced traditional qualifying – provides some added intrigue and additional publicity.

Yes, Stefani will be disappointed not to have got over the line, especially given the strength and depth on the PGA Tour nowadays, but a spot in the Open – his first experience of the esteemed championship – is a pretty special silver lining. He’ll be joined by compatriots Charley Hoffman, Brendan Steele and Ben Martin who, unsurprisingly, had nothing but praise for the qualifying format. It makes sense from a logistical standpoint, it adds some extra excitement and it eliminates the need to incur extra expense from staging stand-alone qualifying tournaments. Well done, R&A.

Woods back from the wilderness

It was great to see Tiger Woods return to action at the Quicken Loans National, even though he didn’t appear to be ready – something he effectively admitted in his pre-tournament press conference. But as good as it was to see him back, you can’t help but feel slightly skeptical about his chances of usurping the great Jack Nicklaus. One thing that’s always defined Woods is his unflappable self-belief, so it was perturbing to hear his slightly negative, resigned rhetoric before the start of the tournament, where he conceded he’d lost his length advantage and wouldn’t be able to swing with the vigor and aggression that characterised his lengthy spell at the summit of the world game.


Still, Woods is a born winner, and even though he can’t swing the way he used to, I’ve no doubt he’ll find a way to triumph once more. The only question, though, is how many. I have to say I think he’ll struggle to catch Jack, but it’ll be fascinating to see how he applies himself post-surgery. Let’s not forget Tiger’s putting prowess – something lacking over the last few years – was instrumental in his 14 major victories, far more so than his power, so he’ll still be extremely dangerous if he can recapture that.

Even if he doesn’t win another major, however, he’s the commercial heartbeat of global golf. Viewing figures were down significantly in his absence, so let’s hope his return sparks a golf-viewing renaissance. You never know, those tuning in to watch Tiger might be exposed to one of the many other flamboyant, talented and exuberant players on tour and start watching golf for a different reason going forward.

Long time coming for Zanotti

It’s always nice to see players labeled as journeymen finally break through into the winner’s circle. Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti has been a regular on the European Tour for the last seven years, but has never finished above 63rd on the Order of Merit. As such, you might have expected him to fold in a play-off against Gregory Havret, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and World Number 2 Henrik Stenson – all proven winners on tour – but he did quite the opposite.

He showed great character to keep himself in the contest and couldn’t believe his luck when Stenson went from water to sand on the driveable par-4 17th – the 5th play-off hole – to hand Zanotti the title. He was understandably emotional and reserved in his post-tournament interview, but the enormity of his win was plain for all to see. He’s the first Paraguyan to taste success on the European Tour, he’s secured a card for two years and he made hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process. His victory should also serve as inspiration to any young Paraguayan golfers dreaming of turning professional. Congratulations, Fabrizio, on a thoroughly deserved victory.

Next week, the European Tour heads to Paris for the Alstom Open de France, with some big names in action at the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic.


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Tags: tiger woods PGA Tour justin rose

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