Rose blooms at last

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The Independent Online

Justin Rose today enjoyed his sweetest moment in golf since he came a brilliant fourth in last year's Open championship.

Justin Rose today enjoyed his sweetest moment in golf since he came a brilliant fourth in last year's Open championship.

The 19-year-old from Hampshire finished joint third in the European Tour qualifying school at San Roque in Spain, four shots behind Scottish winner Alastair Forsyth, and said: "I'm chuffed to bits - what a relief!

"This could end up to be far more important than anything else I ever do."

It enables Rose to put an horrendous start to his professional career behind him and, having achieved fame at Birkdale 16 months ago, gives him another chance to make a fortune. Next year's European circuit will be worth in the region of £45million.

Still only 17 when he gave the best performance by an amateur in the Open since 1953, Rose pitched in from 45 yards at the last hole to finish only two strokes away from the play-off between Mark O'Meara and Brian Watts.

It made him a household name - the Duke of York watched him, screaming girls chasing his autograph were nicknamed 'The Rosettes' and he was even televised having his hair cut the following day - but then things turned sour.

After signing lucrative bonus-related deals with club, ball and even watch manufacturers, Rose missed the halfway cut in his first 21 tour events and also failed to come through the school at his first attempt a year ago.

That left him relying on sponsors' invitations but in 16 starts this season he won less than £7,000 and finished only 197th on the money list.

Meanwhile, the other teenage sensation of Europe - Sergio Garcia - finished third with just short of £1million.

"I knew what my potential was and I didn't perform to it," said Rose. "Tour life was probably difficult at first looking back, but the problems were game-related.

"I was struggling off the tee and didn't give myself a chance to score. It was as black and white as that, but I feel more carefree now.

"Now I'm back on tour on my own merit and that's a nice feeling," added Rose after finishing with a 45-foot birdie putt for a five-under-par total of 427.

"After starting with a 74 I made five under my target for the week, so it was amazing that I holed that putt.

"I'd like to pay tribute to my dad. While things weren't going well he was there every day for me and every missed cut probably hurt him more than it did me."

Ken Rose taught his son the game, remains his main coach and for the qualifying school was also his caddie. But now the teenager intends hiring a professional bag-carrier again.

Winning his card is not the end of the battle, of course. Of the 38 players who came through the school last year only nine earned enough to avoid a return visit.

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