Justin Rose paired with Tiger Woods at The Open for fourth time

 

England's Justin Rose insists he has grown used to the circus which comes with playing alongside Tiger Woods and believes a home crowd will be a great leveller at Royal Lytham this week.

For the fourth time at The Open the 31-year-old has been drawn with the three-time champion, with Spain's Sergio Garcia making up the group for the opening two days.

But while earlier in his career Rose may have been put off by the bigger galleries and associated distractions, he has now learned to take it all in his stride.

"Tiger has been on tour a long time now and a lot of guys have had a chance to play with him regularly," he said.

"No doubt there was a time when it was not necessarily a great draw but it has settled down a little bit and you get used to it.

"At first you are out of your comfort zone but if you get into a nice bubble and you are playing well all that goes away - but if you are struggling you notice more of that so it is up to me to go out there, get into a good rhythm and play well.

"I've won some big tournaments, played in some big tournaments and been at the highest end of the game for a while now.

"You get more and more comfortable and have confidence in yourself and that ultimately is what makes it easier.

"For me the Open Championship is more of a level playing field than playing with him in the States from how the crowd feel."

The first time Woods and Rose were paired 10 years ago produced scenes rarely witnessed before at the championship.

Woods had just won The Masters and US Open and was seeking the third leg of an unprecedented Grand Slam of all four majors, and virtually every camera at Muirfield was trained on him as he started.

Rose, fourth as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998, had just won his first two European Tour titles and he out-scored the American 68-70 in the first round but neither challenged for the title as Rose came 22nd, with Woods 28th after horrendous weather on the Saturday when he shot 81.

They were also paired together in 2007, at Carnoustie, and St Andrews two years ago, and will tee off at 9.42am in the first round on Thursday and then 2.43pm on Friday.

While that familiarity may not have bred contempt, Rose admits he and Woods like to stay in their own 'bubble' on the course, although that does not mean there will be silence on the fairways.

"I have always said Tiger is a really good playing partner because he is complimentary on good shots and is willing to have conversations," he added.

"He really is a lot more easy-going on the course than a lot of other guys, to be honest.

"No doubt he is single-minded and there won't be a lot going on but there will be moments when you have a laugh and a joke about something as we have a bit more in common these days.

"With him, majors are what he is about and it is what he has been doing for the last 10 years.

"These events for him are big, as they are for all of us, and he will definitely have his game face on and we won't be chin-wagging all the way around - that is not how I play my game either.

"I am easy-going and fairly relaxed but at the same time we are going about our business.

"It is amazing how guys will do their own thing and there is no real sociable hanging out and relaxing.

"You don't see Tiger a lot at the venue and he seems to turn up straight from the car park to the range.

"There won't be an atmosphere either way, it won't be good, it won't be bad."

PA

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