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Thursday 29 June 2017

Justin won't look back in anger over missed major title

Justin Rose walks up the 10th fairway during yesterday’s practice round of the US Open at Erin Hills
Justin Rose walks up the 10th fairway during yesterday’s practice round of the US Open at Erin Hills

Justin Rose has decided to count his blessings instead of agonising over the one that got away as he targets a second US Open title at Erin Hills.

Rose could easily have travelled to Wisconsin as a multiple major champion with a green jacket to go with his Olympic gold medal, if not for an inspired performance in the Masters by Sergio Garcia.

Two shots behind after 12 holes of the final round, Garcia pulled his drive on the 13th into the trees and was forced to take a penalty drop, but managed to save par before carding a birdie on the next and a spectacular eagle on the 15th.

Rose birdied the 15th and 16th to keep his nose in front, only to bogey the 17th and eventually suffer his second runners-up finish at Augusta National in three years when Ryder Cup team-mate Garcia birdied the first play-off hole. 

“I feel really good about the way I played and my execution down the stretch for the most part,” the 36-year-old said. “I also think you’d be naive to think you can go throughout your whole career and not have one that gets away.

“I’ve been fortunate in some big tournaments, this one (the US Open) and the Olympics, where things have gone my way. For the most part when I’ve been in contention in the biggest of events, they’ve gone my way right at the death.

“So it is one that got away for sure, but I think that’s part of the game so I’m fully accepting of it.

“I only really judge it at the end of the year, because if I win this week or (the British Open) at Birkdale or the PGA Championship, I’m going to walk away believing it’s a fantastic year. 

“And I feel like this tournament could be the first since the Masters where I really feel motivated to try to get the game peaking again.”

Rose has recorded five top-10s in major championships since his victory at Merion in 2013, where he became the first English winner of the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. And having previously said he had not heard much positive feedback about Erin Hills, the Olympic champion was pleasantly surprised by what he discovered on a scouting mission last week.

“I was very cognizant of coming in here and forming my own opinion,” Rose added. “After the first nine holes I was neutral about it and then I played the back nine and I loved it.

“It’s long off the tee, which makes it demanding off the tee, but there is room to play. It puts driver in play and there is obviously a reward for hitting a good drive because I think the greens, depending on the weather, will likely get firm, and wedges are going to be important.

“It’s not typically US Open dense rough around the greens. There is a lot of skill to chipping on this golf course too. So if your ball is in play from the tee, you can play the golf course.

“The way I look at it as a player is it’s the theory of large numbers. If you put yourself there more and more and more often, eventually the door is going to open.

“You can’t just hope it’s a magical week. It’s hard work.

“You have to look at it and take the long-term approach. I might have 40 majors ahead of me in my career, and if I prepare very, very hard for all of them and I stay fit and healthy and keep working on my game, those 40 can hopefully produce 15 chances.

“And of those 15 chances, hopefully I can convert a few of them. The Masters is probably my best chance because of my record there, but I don’t pin my hopes on just the one major. 

“The (British) Open is one I plan to try to figure out a bit better - the rest of them I don’t second-guess my game in terms of what it takes to win.”

Rose famously finished fourth as an amateur at Birkdale in 1998, but that remains his best finish in 15 British Open appearances.

“I have done the return to Birkdale already (he finished 70th in 2008) so it’s not going to be a focus this time,” Rose added. “I can have a bit of a clean slate.”

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