Justin Rose took a week off last week to prepare for the annual brutal examination that is the U.S. Open. But he didn’t go anywhere near his coach or a guru or even a golf course. Instead, he went shark fishing in Clearwater, Fla., with Ian Poulter and their caddies.
“It was a boys’ trip,” Rose said. “We sank a few beers and I caught a three-and-a-half footer. No really, it was. OK, it’ll probably get bigger every time I tell the story,” he said, laughing.
The fishing trip was a welcome relief from what has been a tough season for the man who won Europe’s Order of Merit race in 2007. Two weeks ago, he finished tied second at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the event marked Rose’s only top 10 finish this year. Last month alone he missed three cuts in a row, at Wachovia, the Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour.
“It was a tough month,” he admitted. “The Memorial was a sigh of relief. It’s funny, when you’re playing badly it feels like the hardest thing in the world to start playing well again. But I am pleased with the way I didn’t panic and now everything is coming flooding back.”
Rose has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but he is the highest-ranked European at No.6 in the world rankings and is perhaps Europe’s main hope to challenge at Torrey Pines. He believes that his T10 finish at Oakmont last year — plus his run at the 2007 Masters — has taught him crucial lessons that will help him break though at the majors. “I lacked a bit of self belief,” he said. “That all changed last year finishing in the top 12 in all four majors. Experience and patience is key. It’s important to remember that if you win three majors over the course of your time in the game, that’s a Hall of Fame career.”
On the eve of the U.S. Open, Rose echoed the comments of Geoff Ogilvy after he won at Winged Foot two years ago, that it is easier to win a major than a regular tournament. “I know what he’s getting at,” Rose said. “Half the players don’t believe they can win a major so that rules them out. Only a few guys out here genuinely feel comfortable in that environment. I feel like I reached that level last year.”
Rose will play the first two rounds with Ogilvy and Ernie Els, number four through six in the world golf ranking. It’s a draw he likes. “Geoff is a friend and Ernie has been a guy I have looked up to my whole career,” he said. Perhaps spending two days in the company of these former U.S. Open champions (Els won in 1994 and 1997) will provide Rose with that final piece of the jigsaw to help him see just what it takes to win a major championship.