Faldo's major record of success provides benchmark for Rose

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The Independent Online

In the sweltering morning Colin Montgomerie had small beads of sweat on his forehead and the usual weight on his soul. He talked, yet again, of how it is to have a brilliant golf game and not a single major to your name.

It was cooler after a shower had irrigated the Sandwich moonscape - and that suited the mood and the situation of Justin Rose. Monty, 40, spoke of all those lost years. Rose, 23 in two weeks' time, said he simply had to seize a day. This coming Sunday, at the climax of the 132nd Open, would do.

Before that, Rose was asked about the meaning of Montgomerie's agony. Did it have one he could apply to his own soaring ambitions? "You can look at it in various ways," Rose said, "or you can just say that you don't have to win seven Orders of Merit to be good enough to win a major. Obviously, he has achieved great things in other ways, but then you look at another great player like Mike Weir who just came along and won the Masters. The point is you have to believe that you just never know when you could stumble across a major."

Stumbling across a major: it is a concept to bedazzle the tortured Monty, and maybe even Nick Faldo - Rose's practice partner earlier in the week. Faldo's three Opens - and three Masters - were the result of a relentless march, but there was always a certain aggression of the spirit which Rose has carefully noted. The young Faldo talked of becoming a golf machine. Rose speaks of riding a moment.

"In our practice round Nick's strategy was pretty aggressive. He's known for his tactics, but he used the driver more than the rest of us, and he was hitting really solid and landing on a lot of fairways," Rose reported. "It was interesting to see but I think I've come to the point where I can recognise that what suits someone like Nick might not necessarily be right for me."

Rose, who sailed past the cut in his first Masters earlier this year and finished an impressive fifth in the US Open, has been working with Faldo's old mentor David Leadbetter these last few days. He says it has been an encouraging experience - another step away from the emotional dislocation brought by his father's death last summer.

"It's always good for me to catch up with David," Rose said. "My preparation for tournaments is always better when he's around, and I really think the fact that I've missed a couple of cuts is not so significant. I've been pretty focused on this tournament. I've reached a point where I think I can win."

His first Open glory - at Royal Birkdale in 1998 - is something plainly long absorbed, along with the pain that came with that run of 21 straight missed cuts, when the euphoric assessment that he was "Britain's answer to Tiger Woods" was replaced by the sneer that he was really no more than Justin Invite - a shining little meteor burning before our eyes.

Now he thinks he knows what it will take to spare himself the regrets of a Monty, and a reminder of the sharp edge which separates the big winners from the big losers came when he worked with Faldo on Tuesday. It was more than mere aura.

"He's the greatest ever British player in terms of the majors he's won," Rose said. "And that's what it boils down to. The majors are the tournaments I really love playing in. If I had to say I would like to win two of them, it would be the Masters and the Open. And he's got three apiece. So that's a record that - if I could get close to - would be a hell of an achievement.

"He represents a benchmark, something to aim at. But I also think he represents something else. He shows you how much discipline it takes. You can learn that with him, see how much effort he puts in and how much hard work it has taken to get him where he is. As a young player you have to look at that - you have to realise that talent doesn't go the distance. You also need the work ethic."

But of course there is a need for something more, and nobody knows it better than Montgomerie. No one has worked harder since he discovered that the simple, beautifully effective method which enabled him to rule the European tour, was not a permanent, all-conquering gift - yet the big win has remained as elusive as ever. Rose believes that the key is a balance between a need to win and a belief that when the day comes you will be ready for it.

"I feel I'm ready to win after last year," he said. "I had a chance to win last year, and I didn't take on the challenge that day. I didn't feel I was ready, and if it happens again here I will feel a lot more at ease with thinking I could win the Open.

"After getting back from Augusta this year I began to realise how special the majors are, and how rarely you get the chance to win them. You really have to jump in and seize your chances. You let one go and you never know whether another one will come along. So you have to grab it with both hands."

You have to cry carpe diem - seize the day. It was the inspiration of a Dead Poets Society. Here it sounds right on the lips of an extremely live young golfer.

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