For Justin Rose, the time has come. He had a successful foray to the Farmers Insurance Open in January, which he won, followed by a less successful late January jaunt to a tournament in Saudi Arabia, where he missed the halfway cut and received more money than a sheikh could shake a stick at. Then he took some holiday time at his home in the Bahamas, where the swimming pool of his house is perhaps 15 feet from the sea. Such were the goings on at the top of the world ranking that he could have been world No. 1 when he dived into his swimming pool and world No. 2 when he climbed out of it and world No. 1 again by the time he had finished towelling himself off.
Now, he is getting ready to fly to Orlando, Florida, where he once lived in an upscale development by a Briton on a street named Covent Garden and his neighbours were Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson. There, at next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, which comes the week before the Players, Justin Rose’s season will start in earnest.
Late in 2018 Rose talked about his plans for this year: “…2019 is about the majors and the recovery required to play well in those events. I think that 2019 has to be a year that supports me into 2020. I can’t be on the accelerator every year flat out. 2020 is a massive year. There are the Olympics, a huge goal of mine.” (Rose won the gold medal for golf at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.)
“It would be great to win a medal, perhaps a gold medal, again,” Rose went on. “Then there is the Ryder Cup. My goal is to have great opportunities to win the major championships. I know how I want to prepare for those. I am going to play the normal spots on the tour but I need to figure out a few three-week breaks. Hit one in February, hit one in October. Hit one in December that will support my system going into 2020.”
Major championships are almost all that matter for golf professionals. As well as his Olympic gold medal, Rose has won the 2013 U.S. Open, and has come second at the 2015 and 2017 Masters and the 2018 Open. This is not as good a report card as a man of his age (he will be 39 in July) and ability would like. Until his rousing finish in the Open at Carnoustie last July – he had to birdie his 36th hole to get through to the last two rounds – his best performance in that event was fourth at Royal Birkdale in 1998 when he was a long-legged, fresh-faced teenage amateur. He turned pro the next day.
Still, the race does not always go to the fastest. Rose’s professional career is worth studying, an exemplar in steadfastness and steady improvement. It began with the woeful record of him missing 21 successive halfway cuts. Yet his demeanour never changed. He faced up to the obligations he felt he owed to journalists by doing his best to explain what had gone wrong at each of these events.
It must have been wearing to relive each failure every time he missed a weekend. How often must he have come out of the recorder’s tent and seen a posse of British journalists waiting for him, notebooks open and pens poised, ready to ask the same question as they had the previous week and would the next week: “What happened, Justin? What’s gone wrong?” It is hard to overemphasize how dispiriting that must have been to a young man newly embarked on what was expected to be a dazzling career.
“He is so good in every department – ball striking, accuracy, putting, physical and mental.” – Jon Rahm
His first professional tournament victories came in 2002 when he was 21 and had been a pro for nearly four years. At that time many of his peers were still in school, which makes Rose just about the greybeard of today’s very best players. Justin Thomas is 13 years younger, Tommy Fleetwood 11, McIlroy nine years, Rickie Fowler eight. Even Dustin Johnson is four years younger.
So Rose’s has not been a speedy rise to world No. 1 but going slowly and steadily has given him a greater perspective on life. You sense that he is a little calmer than many of his younger peers, perhaps more rounded and thoughtful, certainly more polite. It is doubtful that Rose would lay waste to a bunker or a green as Sergio García and Bryson DeChambeau have recently. “Heaven help him if he’s not well mannered,” Annie Rose, Justin’s mother who is known to members of Team Rose as Granny Annie, said. “He’ll get a smack.”
When you think of Dustin Johnson images of his athleticism and his prodigious hitting come to mind. When you think of Rory McIlroy you think of his essential good nature and the way he can occasionally play golf better than anyone and look as though he is enjoying every minute of doing so, walking jauntily down a fairway, his head held high, a smile on his face.
Rose, though no short hitter, has none of Johnson’s or McIlroy’s firepower and the standard of his putting rises and falls more than he would like. But his iron play is exceptional and his steadiness is a byword among his peers. “He is so good in every department – ball striking, accuracy, putting, physical and mental,” said Jon Rahm, Rose’s Ryder Cup teammate.
Sean Foley, Rose’s coach since 2010, believes Rose has become one of the purest ball strikers in the game. “He is able to hit it far, really far,” Foley said. “He can hit his irons really long and cutting. He can hit low spinning flight shots with his short irons. The guy can do it all. He is very bright, very thoughtful and wants to know how the body works and why the ball does what it does when it is hit. He has got big balls. There is no doubt about that. He is a classy guy but super competitive.”
In 2018 Rose won tournaments on the European Tour and the PGA Tour. He pocketed $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup, earned two points from four in Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team and became world No. 1, the fourth Englishman to do so. “My favourite statistic is having 25 top-10s out of the past 33 starts,” Rose said last year. “The more I think about that the more unbelievable that feels to me based on my previous 18 or 19 years as a pro.”
Reach No. 2 or lower in the world ranking and you go unnoticed. Climb to the top and you have a target on your back. Only 23 golfers have done it in the 33 years since the ranking started. Furthermore, Rose is significantly older than his rivals. Time may not be running out but he does not have any of it to spare.
This is something of which the team he has assembled to keep him at concert pitch are fully aware. Apart from his family and his management company, he has a physiotherapist and a chiropractor, a health and wellness advisor, a putting coach, and a coach working on the mental side of putting, a swing coach, a caddie and an acupuncturist who “comes to me for a day or two and basically does a MoT (short for a Ministry of Transport car test that every car in Britain over three years old has to undergo) for eight to 10 hours a day,” Rose said.
“I sometimes think it’s like ten-pin bowling with the bumpers up. If I veer left or right there is somebody to get me back on track.”
In short, there is very little, if anything, for which Rose is not prepared.
There is a rough yardstick to assess how much longer Rose can expect to feature at the highest level, provided he remains healthy. Only a few golfers have stayed competitive more than 35 years after they started playing.
The last of Nick Faldo’s six major victories came at the 1996 Masters, when he was 38 and 25 or so years after he had taken up golf. For all his excellent performances in the Open and the PGA Championship last year, Tiger Woods has not won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open when he was 32. He is now 43. The exception who proves the rule is Jack Nicklaus who won the last of his 18 professional major championships at the grand old age of 46.
Rose was a prodigy, very good very young. He played in the Walker Cup just 10 days past his 17th birthday. Perhaps he could be like Vijay Singh and win more tournaments in his 40s than in his 20s. We will see in the coming years. His temperament and his demeanour are strengths. So too is the extent to which he looks after himself and prepares to give himself the best possible chance.
Even so, four months short of 39, Rose must be feeling the pressure. He dealt with it brilliantly last year, his year of years. But pressure can be like oxygen. It never goes away. It’ll be there at Bay Hill next week.
Justin Rose during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Credit: Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports
Rate this article
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Thanks for your feedback!