James Lawton: Rose rises to the challenge of repairing his broken game as Woods fades to margins

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The Independent Online

While the left-hand gun Phil Mickelson finally brought the nerve to produce enough marksmanship to win his first major title here last night, Justin Rose showed up all in black, which was appropriate on two counts.

While the left-hand gun Phil Mickelson finally brought the nerve to produce enough marksmanship to win his first major title here last night, Justin Rose showed up all in black, which was appropriate on two counts.

It was High Noon, precisely, and like the mythic gunfighter, the young, tall stranger was said to be fighting for his life. Rose has of course been in these parts before, beating the cut impressively on his first appearance last year, but since then the stakes have been raised quite dramatically.

His brilliant first two days in the lead in this 68th Masters gave way to the purgatory of an 81 on Saturday and no one, least of all the 23-year-old Rose, had any comfortable illusions about the meaning of yesterday's fourth round.

"I have to fight today," he said. "I have to show that Saturday hasn't left any permanent scars." It hadn't. He shot the kind of 71 that is played by men who know where they're going at Augusta National, and when he walked off the 18th he said, "I went AWOL on Saturday, and now I have to think that it may well have cost me the tournament. I played the course today as it should be played, and I'll remember that the next time I come here. I have to say that, all in all, it has been a good experience... Leading a major tournament for two rounds, well, that was a first and maybe you have to lead a couple of majors to win one.

"As learning curves go, this was a big one. If you say I behaved well under pressure on Saturday, I have to say shooting 81 is bad enough, let alone behaving like an idiot."

Rash on Saturday, no doubt, but idiocy was never a runner in any categorisation of Rose's second appearance here. He had the best of days and the worst of days, but neither seemed to undermine his basic sense of operating on new frontiers of competition. It was a powerful augury for a significant future, as was his compatriot Paul Casey's dogged refusal to be too quickly dismissed from the unfolding drama which would end with Mickelson's superbly gathered last-green victory. The American, with a major tournament record which has stretched through 46 appearances and had cruelly mocked his often brilliant talents, gave the young Briton the ultimate lesson in termination. You just have to heal your wounds and come back to the battle.

Together, Casey and Rose suggested the potential to form a new wave of British golfing success, one founded on durable spirits and a determination to play with the big men.

None has come bigger, of course, than Tiger Woods but for the moment he remains in what for him surely constitutes a profound crisis. Mixing poignant hints of the old brilliance and new vulnerability, the Tiger finished level with Rose.

This week he checks into the Fort Bragg army camp in North Carolina for training with the Delta special forces. One theory is that he might be better resting both his body, which increasingly seems to be feeling the strain, and his mind, which is also showing more than a hint of fatigue.

Rose, for the moment at least, is in the rudest of health again. Some Americans, aggrieved that this virtually unknown Englishman, who walks down the fairway about as reflectively as Billy the Kid used to push open the saloon doors, had dominated all their heroes for 48 hours, were not in the mood to ease his rehabilitation. One growled, "Welcome to the real world, boy," when Rose sent his tee shot at the second into a bunker. But there were cheers of respect when he saved par, as he had at the first with a superb chip to the green after leaving himself short.

It was the first hopeful sign that Rose was working hard to confirm the old point made by Ernest Hemingway, who claimed that the world breaks everyone sooner or later ­ though some grow strong at the broken places.

That certainly was the principle Rose had carried away from his long, painful Saturday ­ and it was one he supported with much style and nerve on the seventh and eight holes, when after dropping two shots to go to five over for the tournament, he responded with a birdie and an eagle. Rose, who had shrugged his shoulders philosophically when leaving the 18th green after his third-round agonies, now raised his arms in triumph. An always buoyant stride had new life.

This was the demeanour of someone who, despite his tender years, has long understood that golf is always willing to spring an ambush of the spirit. On Saturday night he agreed that he felt shell-shocked. Yesterday Rose finished the front nine in 35 ­ seven shots better than Saturday's abject mark.

The improvement was of course accomplished without the accumulated, killing pressure of two days at the front of the great tournament; the galleries had dwindled, the task was resurrection not glory.

Still, it was something to see, this healing of the wounds of a young player who once missed 21 consecutive cuts without any lasting damage to his competitive psyche, and certainly there was no shortage of wider consolation when his eyes flicked briefly over the leader board.

Woods, playing one hole behind him, was locked on the same score and with a much sharper sense of growing crisis. For the seventh straight major, the Tiger was operating at the margins of a tournament and his plight was made even more uncomfortable by a bout of sickness on the second fairway. He had looked uncomfortable on the tee, but then had to walk briskly into the woods, where he was sick. Naturally some television cameras followed him there, as did his concerned mother, Tilda.

It was another notch of pressure for the man who, two years ago, was utterly imperious, forcing challengers as experienced as the major-winners Erne Els and Vijay Singh into disastrous mistakes under the sheer pressure of trying to compete with a man who, it seemed, had invented his own version of the game.

Yesterday Woods could only yearn for those old moments of authority. In the meantime, he, like Rose, had one simple imperative. It was to fight for redemption. In the end they had the same score on the day and the same placing in the tournament, 20th. They also had the same requirement, It was to grow strong at those broken places.

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