Golf: Rose recovers with professional approach

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The Independent Online
SOME tournaments hand out jackets to their winners - the US Masters' green one being only the most famous example - but if the Benson and Hedges International were to offer a sartorial prize, as well as its gold cup, a woolly hat would be the best bet.

Its regular spot in the calendar during the 1990s as the first British event of the year has led to boom for manufacturers of warm clothing. With that in mind, the thunderstorms which threatened Thame all morning, at least meant the temperature was a good 20 degrees higher than is usually the case for this tournament at The Oxfordshire.

But with lightning in the area, play was delayed for six and a quarter hours. Justin Rose had awoken shortly after 5am and was at the course in plenty of time for what was originally a 7.15 tee time.

The 17-year-old amateur is touted as the next great British golfer and after a nervy start when play finally got under way - he was four over after five holes - Rose recovered to finished with a 72. His level par score left him four behind Italy's Massimo Florioli and three adrift of a group, which included his playing partner, Brian Davis.

Even experienced professionals find it difficult to find their best form after a frustrating delay and following the way he had hit the ball on the practice range, Ian Woosnam was delighted to score a 71.

Rose, from Hampshire but South African born, hit his approach fat at the first and failed to chip and putt for his par. Another shot went at the third and at the par-three fifth, one of the longer short holes at 208 yards, Rose's two-iron bounced back off the bank into the water. The mistake cost him a double-bogey.

The Oxfordshire course was playing every foot of its 7,205 after not just the morning rain but the many April deluges. Technically, Rose, the youngest player to appear in the Walker Cup when he represented Great Britain and Ireland last August, can handle such a challenge. What was more important to the experienced Paul Eales, the third member of his group, was the temperament he displayed.

"As a pro, his most impressive quality was his attitude," Eales said. "He showed a lot of guts and patience to fight back the way he did." Birdies followed at each of his three remaining par-fives and he finished with back-to-back birdies by hitting a six-iron to a foot at the 445-yard uphill last hole.

"It was a nice way to finish. I really enjoyed the last 12 holes," Rose said. "I was edgy at the start and made a couple of silly mistakes, but I moved the ball forward in my stance slightly and felt more comfortable."

In order to accept the invitation from the sponsors for this event, his third on the European Tour, Rose had to pull out of the Brabazon Trophy, a major event on the amateur circuit which starts at Formby today. "It was a difficult decision but this week has been a great experience already. It was an opportunity I couldn't really miss," he said.

His playing partners for a practice round on Tuesday were Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, while he was in Jose Maria Olazabal's group in Wednesday's pro-am. Rose shot a 68 to Olazabal's 72.

Yesterday, the Spaniard was again round in level par, while Lee Westwood was one better. Westwood's form has not yet sparked in Europe the way it did in America, where he won the New Orleans Classic, and he missed a number of chances with his putter.

"I am not striking my driver quite as well and I have lost a bit of touch on the greens," he said.

Colin Montgomerie teed off at 6.20pm and was unable to finish his round.

l Trish Johnson had a 73 in the first round of the women's major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, in Delaware, yesterday. Johnson knows she needs to show some form if she is to make her fifth Solheim Cup appearance at Muirfield Village, Ohio, in September. She has missed four cuts from nine starts in America this year. Sweden's Carin Koch headed the early European challenge on level-par 71.