Forget the US Open, the trophy Justin Rose treasures most was made by his son
After savouring his first major victory at Merion, the down-to-earth Briton is glad to be back at work
It was almost a relief to turn into the gates of TPC River Highlands and put the overalls on. Justin Rose is a golfer after all. As much as he enjoyed the celebrity spin around the television and radio studios of New York, hanging with David Letterman et al, Rose could not wait to get back at it at the Travelers Championship today.
The US Open was the first leg of a three-tournament cycle taking him to our own Open championship at Muirfield next month.
Of course he is thrilled with the silver pot on the mantelpiece but recognises the dangers of lingering on what was while his rivals are sharpening their tools.
"To be in the hustle and bustle of New York for a day was fun. I was just trying to let everything soak in, being the US Open champion," he said. "I went on some great shows, shows I have watched many times on TV. It was slightly surreal but I enjoyed it. Everybody made it easy for me."
So did the reunion with the kids, who flew up from Florida to celebrate with dad in Connecticut. "They couldn't care less about a big shiny trophy. My son made me a clay trophy all coloured in. I told him that was my favourite. He was happy with that. I had a good night's sleep last night so this week is about getting back into good habits. I have been eating on the run, so some early nights and eating well is the goal."
Rose is out today in the afternoon's marquee group with fellow major winners Keegan Bradley and Zach Johnson. Of course he is still processing the events of the last week and what it all means, but he has the presence of mind to recognise the importance of re-establishing his routine quickly.
"It is obviously going to be a bit of wait and see how I play sort of thing," he said. "I have to be lenient on myself. My game is in good shape and I hope I carry it through. I am expecting to go out there and put in a good performance. The same disciplines apply each week. That is how every round should be played. That will be my goal this week, to be as sharp as I can mentally.
"This is perfect for the week after a major. It is a great balance. There is always a good atmosphere to keep you up but the course is also a tough challenge to play. You have to put four good rounds together to win here. This is a tournament I really enjoy. It has a lot of history to it and has treated me well over the years.
"The way I set up my preparation was as a three-week run. I arrived at the US Open only on the Tuesday night. That was intentional because I knew I had this tournament and the AT&T next week as well. So I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing."
Rose has almost re-invented himself as a frontline golfer in the past three years. His first wins on the PGA tour in 2010, one year into his association with coach Sean Foley, hardened his attitude, and sharpened his instinct for the contest. He was learning how to win. His success at Merion last weekend was the culmination of a process geared to delivering the big prizes. But, as he says, until you do it you can never be sure you have what it takes.
"To win a major is a moment you hope is going to happen in your career. So many great players have not had that happen for them. It is something I have been working towards for a long time and to have it happen is fantastic. You think you are good enough, you can tell yourself you are good enough, you can believe you are good enough, but until it happens you just don't know. The Ryder Cup might have been a stepping stone. I felt like I handled the pressure of making putts. The US Open is about making shots under pressure and I was able to do that."
In effect, Rose has learned that in order to win he must not fear losing. He watched Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott rebound from epic failures at the Masters and the Open respectively to win their own first majors. He absorbed the lessons and when it came to delivering under the greatest pressure on that 18th tee at Merion he felt like having a go.
"It hit me at the US Open that if you are not willing to risk experiencing what it might feel like to lose a major tournament then you can't really play your best stuff. I was good with that. If you put yourself in that situation time and time again and are willing to just keep knocking down that door then you will succeed in the end. That is what I learned."
There are a couple of Englishmen in the Travelers field this week who would love to be making the same noises as Rose. Lee Westwood has come close many times, and was 15th last week. Ian Poulter has flirted with the leaderboard at majors but not been able to sustain the attack. Maybe another week in the company of England's first major winner since 1996 might inspire with Muirfield just one month away.
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