At the age of 37 Justin Rose believes he is close to hitting his peak, and after collecting his ninth victory on the PGA Tour at the Fort Worth Invitational in Texas in May he equalled Sir Nick Faldo’s record of the highest number of wins on the American circuit by an Englishman in the modern era.
His victory in the USA also elevated him to a career-high third on the Official World Golf Ranking. With ten wins on the European Tour, a US Open title, two World Golf Championships victories, an Olympic Gold Medal and four Ryder Cup appearances under his belt, Rose is determined to make the most of his time at the top level and accelerate towards becoming one of the game’s greats.
“I believe I’m getting better as I edge towards 40, so I’ve not hit my peak yet,” smiled Rose, who won back-to-back titles on the European Tour last year at the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Turkish Airlines Open as he pushed Tommy Fleetwood all the way in the Race to Dubai. “How I’m going to be remembered in the game will be determined by what happens from here onwards,” says Rose. “I’ve had a great career so far, but there’s a difference between a great career and a special career – or a Hall of Fame-type career. That’s really the point where I am. If I go on to achieve some other really big championships – Major Championships – then my career certainly looks like it will become more of a special career than just a great career.”
Rose is back at Gullane – the scene of his last appearance in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open in 2015 – and he’s eager to lay the foundations for a tilt at next week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie. “The last time I played at Gullane I followed up with a sixth place finish in The Open, so I’m looking forward to teeing it up again on Scotland’s Golf Coast, and producing two good weeks of links golf,” said Rose, who won the title in 2014 at Royal Aberdeen.
“The Scottish Open is a fantastic tournament and I’m glad to be back and vying to lift the trophy again.,” he said. “There’s definitely something special about playing golf in Scotland. The crowds are so knowledgeable and appreciate good play, which always makes for a good atmosphere.” Since he clinched the European Tour’s Order of Merit in 2007 and made his Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla the following year, Rose’s career path has been on a steady ascent. In 2010 he won twice on the PGA Tour in quick succession but narrowly missed out on a place on Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor.
The following year he continued his record of winning in the United States with a victory at the BMW Championship in the PGA Tour’s Play-off events. In March 2012 he clinched a first World Golf Championships win at the WGC-Championship in Miami and later that year added a 1-up victory over Phil Mickelson at the Miracle of Medinah, helping the European team win with an historic comeback. It was that moment that gave Rose the belief that he could become one of the world’s premier players.
“The 2012 Ryder Cup was big for me,” recalls Rose, who was 1-down with two to play but went on to win the final two holes to turn the match around, making an astonishing 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th to take the match down the 18th. “Making putts when I most needed to was huge,” he said. “After Medinah, pretty much any situation I’m in now I can tell myself, ‘I’ve done it before, I believe I can do it now.” That belief was evident the following summer as he plotted his way around the tight fairways of Merion Golf Club to seal a two-stroke win over Jason Day and Phil Mickelson at the US Open.
‘Established a Partnership’
His victory made him the first English Major winner since Sir Nick Faldo in 1996 and the first English winner of the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. In 2014 he won his seventh European Tour title at Royal Aberdeen and a few months later he returned to Scotland as part of Paul McGinley’s Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles. It was there that he established a partnership with Henrik Stenson that saw them put three points on the board in their three matches together as Europe clinched an impressive 16½ – 11½ victory. Rose underlined his status as a global champion with victory at the 2015 UBS Hong Kong Open and at the start of 2016 he made the Olympic Games one of his top priorities. “I made it a big deal in my schedule and treated it as a big deal all year,” he said after receiving his gold medal in Rio. “I made it a highlight. I arrived on the Friday before the tournament – typically how I try to prepare for Major Championships.
‘Part of the Plan’
“I had the benefit of walking in the opening ceremony and watching other sports, which was all part of the plan and to come out with a medal was great – to come out with a gold was unbelievable. It sits alongside the US Open trophy for me.” Last year Rose was involved in a thrilling down-the-stretch play-off shoot-out at Augusta National with Sergio Garcia, coming up just short with Garcia making birdie on the first extra hole to win and leave the Englishman with his second runner-up finish at The Masters in three years.
Rose bounced back with his late wins in China and Turkey and went on to finish fourth in the DP World Tour Championship and second in the Race to Dubai and has picked up where he left off, with no missed cuts so far in 2018 and a handful of top tens, including a third place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida. His performances have almost guaranteed him a spot in Thomas Bjørn’s Ryder Cup team in September and Rose is keen to play his part in Europe regaining the trophy on home soil after losing their grip two years ago at Hazeltine.
“The last Ryder Cup was kind of a slight changing of the guard as we had six rookies in the team,” said Rose. “The American team maybe had just the one rookie – so it was a case of timing. “They were an incredibly hungry team, and we were up against it in that respect. But in France, the shoe will now be on our foot in terms of us being the hungry ones. “I certainly want us to get back to winning ways in Paris.”