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Rose ready for Masters redemption

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Rob Hodgetts | 17:56 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011

In some circles, Phil Mickelson is nailed on to defend his Masters title. Others say it's the most open Masters, maybe ever.

Much is being made of the European challenge, and of all the home hopes there is one Englishman coming in slightly under the radar who could play a prominent role in proceedings at Augusta this week.

Justin Rose is a man not only in form but with a significant piece of equipment in his armoury - he's an Augusta specialist.


The 30-year-old has held the first-round lead in three of his five Masters (2004, 2007, 2008), led at halfway once (2004) and has held at least a share of the lead at some stage on all four days of the tournament. He was also second after the third round in 2007.

Clearly, there will be some who say this just shows he hasn't the gumption to see it through. But, on average, it takes six visits to win your first Masters and Mickelson didn't win the first of his three Green Jackets until his 12th.

Rose missed out on qualification last year but went on to win twice in three weeks on the PGA Tour.

Last month, he led going into final round of Transitions Championship before finishing fifth and a week later he shared third behind countryman Luke Donald in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill after steaming around the back nine in 31.

The closest Rose has come to a Green Jacket was in 2007 when he was one shot off the lead standing on the 17th tee, only for his drive to take a violent ricochet off a branch and end up on the 15th fairway.

rosey595.jpgRose knows his way around Augusta but can he put four good rounds together? Photo: Getty

He went on to make a double bogey to end fifth, his best result so far. Not bad, considering he fought back from two 75s in the second and third rounds and a double bogey early in this final round to still have a chance.

But Rose, who shares Tiger Woods's new swing guru Sean Foley, is not plagued by what-might-have-beens and is excited to be back on a course where he has real pedigree.

"I see it as an opportunity," he said. "I see it as a golf course that suits my game. I seem to play well around difficult golf courses and I seem to putt well on really quick greens.

"Every experience I've had here I've gone on from. In this game nothing is ever going to go your way the whole time - you lose 95% of time anyway. So it's how do you get better by losing? You only do that by taking the right lesson from every week and applying it going forward.

"You can't get too disappointed or down. This game does offer a lot of disappointment and you can't always dwell on it. You've got to use it as a motivating factor .

"Given the same opportunities I certainly feel a lot more equipped to handle them. I don't take much pressure on board, I don't feel too much expectation. I feel like I'm going in quite free. I don't feel I've got any huge monkeys on my back."

After his double win last year, Rose went into the Open Championship at St Andrews as one of the favourites but missed the cut.

"The thing I learned from last year was that I overdid things going into the Open," he said.

To combat this he took last week off to relax at his place in Albany in the Bahamas.

"They've prepared the golf course down there firm and fast to really create a lot of the same shots we're going to face at Augusta," he said. "It's the perfect place to do a little bit of work and relax."

He's come a long way from the young man who missed 21 consecutive cuts after turning pro following that fourth-placed finish as a 17-year-old amateur in the Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998.

"My mindset going into Augusta is I wanted to get the game going in the right direction but clear out my mind and drop a swing key or two going into the tournament, rather than adding things and working harder on my game."

In his previous appearances at Augusta, one rogue round has been his undoing. In 2004, a disastrous third-round 81 blew his chances, while in 2008 he took 78 in round two to slide away.

"There are very fine lines around the golf course," he said. You can have a day when you're hitting the right slopes and the right shots and feeding the ball to the flag, and the next day you're just that little bit off and you catch the other side of the slope and it rolls to the back and you're in three-putt country.

"And maybe you get off to a slow start and then you decide to press and take on a flag you otherwise wouldn't and make double. That's the type of course it is, it's risk and reward and it baits you into doing that. I've learned the hard way, around Augusta, certainly.

"I know I can play the golf course as good as anybody. I've also seen what it can do, so when you're running into a situation that feels similar you know the mistakes you made last time and know what not to do."

Presumably like driving into a tree on the 17th in the final round.

"I definitely had a moment on the 17 tee," Rose told me. "I birdied 16 and Tiger was playing in the group behind and he hit it in quite close and the crowd was going crazy.

"I had a moment of thinking, 'Oh, this is so cool, I'm really, really enjoying myself and I feel great. I feel in control here.

"Then it happened but don't I feel like I could have done a whole lot differently. I made a good swing, not a great swing, and you mishit shots at certain times, but you don't expect to be punished like that.

"But the thing I take from it is that you always imagine how you would cope if you had a shot to win the Masters, how would you feel? I felt like, 'this is it, this is why I play the game, this is what I enjoy doing and sometimes that's all you need to know about yourself."

No-one would be surprised if Rose's name was top of the leaderboard at some stage this week. The key for him is to make sure it's on Sunday night.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Reckon Rose has a chance, but which Justin will we see if he's in contention after three rounds?
    Memorial and Aronomink Justin?
    Or Travelers and Transitions Justin??

  • Comment number 2.

    I like the mindset Justin is taking in to this Masters, he certainly has the game to get him a green jacket, but like kwini says, which game will we see? Hopefully, his A game.

    Come on Justin!

  • Comment number 3.

    I like Justin but he is too Hot/Cold to contend, he has been his entire career.

    He'll have a fantastic year one season, then have a terrible one the next, I don't think he could stand the heat and pressure that a Masters Sunday brings.

  • Comment number 4.

    I've never understood peoples' obsession with Justin Rose. He's a very good player, but he's not a great player so why all the fuss? I seriously doubt he'll ever win a major tournament, I'd say that Poulter has a better chance (maybe not at Augusta) simply because he has the right attitude if not such a good game.

    Of course I hope I'm wrong, because all British successes are worth celebrating.

  • Comment number 5.

    On his day, when he's in the groove, Rose can be as good as anyone tee to green; sadly his putting breaks down under the most intense pressure & I don't see that changing should he be in contention come Sunday afternoon. That won't stop me rooting for him though.

  • Comment number 6.

    As per the norm, South Africans bottle it at some point when under pressure

  • Comment number 7.

    "The closest Rose has come to a Green Jacket was in 2007 when he was one shot off the lead standing on the 17th tee, only for his drive to take a violent ricochet off a branch and end up on the 15th fairway."

    = Choked

    The Masters probably is quite open this year. Phil played great last week and he's rightfully favourite but there's a fragility to him now.

    Others are developing the mentality now to stare down the back nine on Sunday and say 'right, i'm going for this'.

    I'd love to see a situation like that come Sunday.

  • Comment number 8.

    Rose has done well - but not for a whole four days, that is the problem. Maybe this year??

    More build-up at http://teestacklesandtons.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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