LA JOLLA, Calif. – Look, people, the time has come. On this last weekend of the first month of this new year we must come to our senses and acknowledge golf’s deep and universal truth: Mr. Justin Rose—the mild-mannered, unassuming, reserved, deeply English Mr. Rose, MBE—is your No. 1 ranked men’s player in the world for a reason. And the reason is that he hits one quality shot after another, again and again. Doesn’t matter whether the course is hard or easy, if the field is strong or weak, if the weather is good or bad. Doesn’t matter if he’s in Europe or Asia or these United States. Justin Rose is going to hit the ball on the face. He’s going to make smart decisions. He’s going to shoot a good score. Is it exciting? Not particularly. Is it impressive? We need something bigger than bigly.
Midway through this tried-and-true Tour stop in San Diego, held on the Torrey Pines municipal courses every year since 1968, Justin Rose has a three-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama. Hideki’s a fine player, of course, a world-class talent, even if his 2018 campaign was no great shakes. But Matsuyama is not shooting a lower score than Rose on Saturday, and everybody else is too far behind. Come Sunday night, Rose will be hoisting a metal pine tree attached to a wood base. This is not the California white Zinfandel talking. It’s form. Rose will get that inert tree for winning this event, the Farmers Insurance Open. Also a check for $1.3 million. Also 500 FedEx Cup points—and you know how valuable those are. Also 60 OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking) points! Rose’s stranglehold on his loneliest-number ranking will only tighten. Sorry, Brooks Koepka. Points go to those who play.
On Tuesday, Rose, surrounded by a dozen or so golf hands, was on a resort driving range, at the golf course at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. He was trying out various new toys, provided to him by his new equipment sponsor, Honma, a Japanese manufacturer. Every single shot he hit-scores and scores of beautifully struck shots—were measured and recorded, by his fill-in caddie, Gareth Lord. (Rose’s regular caddie, Mark Fulcher, is out until March following heart surgery.) By his swing coach, Sean Foley. By two Honma techies. It’s hard to imagine another golfer who knows better what he can do with each club.
After a Thursday round of 63 on the North Course and a 66 on the much-harder South Course, Rose said, “The job was done today. That was really nice to go out there and play a positive round. I can build on that for the weekend. I won’t get ahead of myself right now, we’re at the halfway stage.”
We’re at the halfway stage, yes. But sometimes past results really do predict future performances.