Justin Rose must be the oldest 20-year-old in Britain; he has been around for so long. In 1998, as a 17-year-old amateur, Rose burst into the glare of publicity by finishing tied fourth at the Open at Royal Birkdale. That he did it by chipping in from 50 yards in front of the heaving galleries at the 18th only confirmed his star potential.
Yesterday, the new improved version started with an eye-catching 69. No longer the naïve amateur, Rose the professional has experienced more highs and lows than your average pro does in a career and more than most mortals do in a lifetime.
The Open likes Rose and the admiration is mutual. "The Open seems to bring out the best of me," he said. "I have played well today, yes. But a lot of it has to do with the support I receive out there. The crowd do get behind me. It is good fun. It is a tournament I look forward to playing. It is the biggest tournament a British player can ever play in. I think it is the adrenaline and the buzz you get from that helps me play well," he said.
On yesterday's performance, whatever it is they should bottle and sell at golf shops everywhere. A quiet opening was suddenly brought to life by an eagle on the par-five seventh as he holed a 50-footer from the edge of the green.
A birdie on the 13th after a five-iron to five feet was cancelled out by a bogey five on the 15th. The 15 other holes were made in par.
Rose put the solid nature of his round down to an old friend. The Scotty Cameron putter that he used at Birkdale gained reselection for Rose's bag last week and the effect was immediate. "I am more conscious of my right line, just feeding the putt to the hole," he said. "It is a putter I always go back to in my hour of need."
Rose has seen an upsurge in his game since visiting David Leadbetter for advice. After a wretched year in 1999 that saw him earn just over £6,000 – not that much more than he did as an amateur – the millennium saw him start to adapt to his profession. He was second in the 2000 European Tour School to win back his card and then began this year with two second places in South Africa in January. Yesterday's round was just an extension of this new confidence.
"I have been playing pretty good all year. it is just a continuation of that, hopefully."