Thriving Rose eyes major breakthrough
Englishman benefiting from red-hot putter – and greater happiness in his life
One thing Justin Rose has always been blessed with is time. Is there an older 31-year-old in all sport? That must be doubted considering what Rose has been through since he finished fourth at the 1998 Open as that a skinny amateur.
Of course, there was the reaction to the fairytale, then the comeback from the reaction, then the reaction to the comeback, then the comeback from the reaction to the comeback. And while this golfing big dipper was going through its stomach-churning motions, so Rose had to cope with the loss of his father to leukaemia and make a new life in the United States with his wife Kate and young family.
Rose believes he has come out the other side and senses that his moment might be nigh. Rather pertinently, he is reaching the peak age of a golfer, but is armed with the experience of a senior. He was trying to put this to good effect here at the WGC Cadillac Championship yesterday as he went out one behind the halfway leader Bubba Watson.
Rose arrived in Miami after an encouraging fifth place in last week's Honda Classic. The heroics of Rory McIlroy at PGA National – as he held off the charging Tiger Woods to assume the No 1 mantle – meant Rose's performance went largely unreported. But his first visit to the leaderboard in 2012, following a protracted break over the winter, may well prove one of the more significant pointers to this golfing season. As his coach, Sean Foley, said when asked whether Rose could make a significant breathrough, "it's just a matter of time."
For "significant breakthrough" read "major victory". There are higher ranked Englishmen, yet not even Luke Donald or Lee Westwood can boast the winning American form of Rose in the last 20 months. Rose won two PGA Tour titles in the space of three weeks in 2010 and then, in October, won the prestigious Barclays Championship in New Jersey. Evidently Rose has learnt how to triumph as well as make money – he has won more than £25m in his 14-year career – and the player ranked 22nd in the world is desperate to test this clinical mentality on the game's biggest stages.
"I simply have to do better in the majors," he said yesterday as he prepared to build on Friday's 63. "That has been a low point for me over the last couple of years.
"From my record you can see I have won a couple of big tournaments, where you get that major championship feel on a Sunday, with the big crowds and so forth. But I need to take the next step up."
The foundations are certainly there for Rose to reach a new level. He has never felt either as confident or as happy. He and Kate had their second child, Charlotte, on New Year's Day and the few months he spent away from his profession performing his parental duties reinforced his conviction. "I feel more balanced in my life," he said. "We have seen through the years that players are better in their 30s. Your perspective changes; you are more mature about things and that makes a great difference.
"For sure, I have a deeper self-belief than before. It is one thing to have the tools to go out and do it but you have to know you can go out and do it as well. And for me these two elements are lining up."
He has faith in the tutelage of Foley. The Canadian is better known as the man who has radically overhauled the swing of Tiger Woods. Yet as Foley has featured large in the headlines as Woods has struggled and, more recently started to bloom again, Foley has quietly afforded Rose the solidityhe required in his long game.
"I have got quite a set routine now," said Rose. "I know my tendencies and I know what to work on. I have got three or four feels that revolve around that and that is good. It means I'm not really thinking about it too much, which in turn allows me to work more on my fitness and short game."
Rose is fully aware the latter is key and, with 23 putts in both of his first two rounds on the Blue Monster, his sharpness on the greens has been obvious. As far he is concerned, this is what will help him leap off the rollercoaster. "I've kind of put it together in spells in the past, and I think typically, it's come down to the putter," he said. "When I'm making putts, the rest of my game gets showcased.
"I'm working on becoming more consistent on the greens and that's beginning to pay off more regularly for me. It's more mental than anything. Everything is working, and everything can get me out of trouble.
"I don't have to rely on one particular part of my game every single day. It's an exciting feeling."
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