ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI | Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. When Justin Rose was overheard to berate himself, “You’re throwing shots away. You’re throwing shots away,” as he walked off the eighth tee at Bellerive Country Club, he spoke nothing but the truth. The tall Englishman was throwing shots away.
He had been given the advantage of being out early on Friday of the PGA Championship before the greens became reduced to the worst condition of the week – and of playing on a calm day with congenial playing partners. It was a day made for low scoring. Unfortunately for Rose, ranked third in the world, the highest non-American and many people’s favourite for this championship, scoring low was precisely what he wasn’t doing.
Unlike, say, Kevin Kisner who was 6-under par for the day, and Charl Schwartzel and Brooks Koepka, who were 7 under, Rose was only 1 under. He had started the round at 3 under, had got himself to 5 under – or 2 under for the day – only to keep dropping shots. He was in two bunkers on the fifth hole, his 14th, another bunker off the tee on the seventh and a greenside bunker on the ninth. He was getting frustrated.
Long before he finished, the thought occurred: should he have spent more time practising his putting to get ready for Bellerive’s big greens? Not only had he hit hardly any shots in his preparation because of a slight niggle in his back, but he had hit hardly any putts even though he had walked the course. Seemed an unusual way to prepare for a major championship.
“My knowledge of the greens is very limited,” Rose said on Thursday. “Each green is three or four sections. Once you’re in those sections the putting is fairly predictable. It’s a tough putt when you are in the wrong section and you’ve got to go up a hill slowly and over the top and downhill.”
He struggled again in Friday’s second round with some poor driving and poor iron play in his 69.
“Here you have a lot of putts that break a lot,” Rose said. “But even though they break you still have to hit them firm, which is a bit counterintuitive. So I am still trying to get the eye up to 100 percent on that.”
Rose finished his Friday morning round six strokes behind Gary Woodland, the early second-round leader, five behind Kisner, four behind Koepka, the US Open champion, and three behind Dustin Johnson, the world No 1. That is an impressive quartet of American golfers, beefy men, too, with the exception of Kisner. Rose is going to have to play well to shoulder his way past them and it may be that he will not be able to do so on fairways and greens that he does not know very well.