EUROPEAN TOUR

Justin Rose can make up for a frustrating 2019 season with a rare European Tour three-peat

By John Huggan  

Justin Rose. Photo by Golffile

Justin Rose is back for the Turkish Airlines Open looking to make up an elite foursome. Should the World No. 8 win the tournament for the third year in succession, he will join Ian Woosnam (Monte Carlo Open), Colin Montgomerie (BMW PGA Championship) and Nick Faldo (Irish Open) as the only men to achieve such a feat in regular European Tour events.

“Winning a major championship and winning big tournaments is where you absorb the pressure and really get to answer questions of yourself,” said Rose, who is currently ranked 29th on the season-long Race to Dubai points list with three events remaining on the 2018-’19 schedule. “A three-peat is something that sneaks up on you. So it is one of those things that is hard to rank, in terms of ticking career boxes. It’s one of this little asterisk moments, just a cool thing to have done.”

Making things harder for Rose is the fact that this year’s event is not being held on the Regnum course where he has finished first the last two years. Instead, the Montgomerie Maxx Royal is playing host to the $7 million Rolex Series event for the first time since 2015.

Still, of more long-term concern to Rose was the effect of the change in scheduling on the PGA Tour in 2019, particularly the PGA Championship shifting from August to May, thereby condensing the major championship season. Having taken February off in what became a vain attempt to be “ready” for the four most important dates on his professional calendar, Rose failed to add his major victory count, which remains at one with his 2013 U.S. Open triumph. Only at that same event did he even contend, pulling up T-3 in Gary Woodland’s wake at Pebble Beach.

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Justin Rose. Photo by Golffile

Next year looks to be even more difficult, at least in terms of scheduling. The Olympic Games in Tokyo follow the fourth and last major of the year, the Open Championship. Then there are the FedEx Cup playoffs. And there is also a Ryder Cup to think of the following month. For a leading player like Rose, deciding where, when and how often to play has never been more complicated.

“I will try to make good, intelligent choices at the start of the year and so try to kind of feed the summer,” said Rose, who, as the highest-ranked British player, is currently in place to defend the Olympic gold medal he won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. “But if I make bad decisions, that is my problem.”

On the upside, Rose was quick to point out that he was far from alone in not quite getting his itinerary right this year. Every one of golf’s elite is faced with the same issues, the knock-on effect being that some events—even those long-established—may have to endure high-profile absences.

“I [didn’t play much] major to major this year and it didn’t work out great,” Rose said. “So I might be forced to play tournaments I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to play. It’s hard to be all things to all people all the time. But good golf can bridge the gap. My goal is to play well in the right events. That’s what will take my career to the next level. Anything else is more of the same and what I have already achieved.”

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Justin Rose. Photo by Golffile

Speaking of which, Rose spoke warmly of his Olympic experience, over and above the thrill of representing his home nation. Attending the opening ceremony, he feels, galvanized him to produce a gold medal-winning performance.

“I was inspired and got a feeling of what it was actually all about,” Rose said. “If I had tried to make it just another golf tournament, who knows what would have happened. Any time you put on the crest or logo of your national team, it inspires you to be the best version of yourself. The emotion and the connection I got to Team GB by being in the opening ceremony was part of the reason I had the energy to play some of my best golf.”

As it turned out, attending the gymnastics events along with his wife also provided Rose with some perspective. He sat in awe as the competitors did their various things in an environment he described as “chaotic.”

“I could not believe the chaos they perform in,” he said. “There was noise. There were announcements. There was the movement of the other disciplines. Trainers were walking around the parallel bars as someone else was running at the vault. They had to execute tear moves within all that. All after four years of blood, sweat and tears in preparation. I thought to myself, ‘God bless golf.’

“So what I learned there was that, even if 70-80 percent of the crowd were not familiar with golf, my pre-shot routine had to be like I was running at the vault. Once I started, nothing was going to stop me. I was going to play through anything that happened.”

A “sound” philosophy that might well work on the timetable front, too.

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