Rose eyeing back-to-back titles in Shanghai

Defending champion Justin Rose will look to become the first player to retain a WGC-HSBC Champions trophy when he tees it up at Sheshan International Golf Club this week.

The World Number Three, who came roaring back in last year’s final round to erase an eight-shot deficit, would follow Tiger Woods as the only other player to successfully defend a WGC tournament if he is able to overcome the star-studded field assembled in Shanghai.

The 38 year old, who briefly topped the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career last month, has had a season to remember on the European Tour.

The Englishman went on to win the Turkish Airlines Open off the back of his WGC victory last year, and has continued that form into 2018 recording five top ten finishes, including a tied second at The Open Championship, before going on to play an integral role in Team Europe’s stunning Ryder Cup victory at Le Golf National in September and hosting the Sky Sports British Masters earlier this month.

“It’s been a special year. It’s been a special month, going to Number One, The Ryder Cup, the FedEx all happened pretty much off the back of one another,” said Rose. “Hosting British Masters was also a huge honour. It’s been a really exciting couple of months to be honest with you.

“It’s always a funny time of year, really, because the new season has started but you’re also coming to what feels like the end of the year. You’re trying to get off to a great start for your 2019 campaign on the PGA TOUR and trying to finish strong on the 2018 European Tour Race to Dubai, but you are also looking forward to a break at the same time.”

Nine of his Ryder Cup teammates join him in the field this week including Open Champion and current Race to Dubai leader Francesco Molinari. The Italian became the first European – and just the fourth player ever – to win five matches out of five in France, and is a former winner of this event in 2010.

Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy has five top ten finishes in his six appearances at Sheshan International and with three tournaments remaining on his schedule for the 2018 season, the 29 year old knows big results are required to keep him in contention for a fourth Race to Dubai title.

“I need to play some very, very good golf over these next few weeks to at least have a chance of winning the Race to Dubai,” said McIlroy.

“If I can go there, if I can go to Dubai with a mathematical chance of winning, you know, you never know what can happen. Still open to it, but I know it’s a long shot.”

Meanwhile, new World Number One Brooks Koepka is eyeing a long spell on top of the world as he prepares for the European Tour’s final World Golf Championships event of the season. The American’s victory at last week’s CJ Cup moved him to the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking at a time when the battle to be golf’s top dog has never been more competitive.

“To start the year off with a win is something you always want to do” said Koepka. “One-for-one is always nice. Just got to build on that. I feel like I’ve built a lot of momentum throughout the year and obviously only a week off in between, it felt like, so there wasn’t much of a gap.

“To build that momentum and kind of build on what I’ve done this year was key, and hopefully it rolls over into this week and then have a few weeks off to kind of figure out what I need to work on and what needs to get better, and go from there.”

Rose and Dustin Johnson have both held top spot in recent weeks and both of those players could replace Koepka should results go their way this week, however the 28 year old has no intention of giving his position up, and is aiming for yet another milestone as he seeks a first WGC win to go with his three Major Championships.

 

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