RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Justin Rose is confident he has the know-how to conquer Hoylake this weekend

new balance


It was the Open that made Justin Rose as a young man. He’s also coming around to the idea that it might define the latter years of his career as well.

The thought has cropped up because we are talking about age and the curses of it. About what you lose, which Rose sometimes feels when he looks back to that 17-year-old amateur who finished fourth at Royal Birkdale in 1998.

‘I was just fearless that week,’ he tells Mail Sport. ‘And that’s normal when you’re young. Carefree. Naive. Almost blissfully ignorant really. Getting older changes that. You can almost know too much. Honestly, there have been times in the last 25 years I’ve wanted to peel back the layers to be a bit more like that version of myself.’

But there’s another side to age and that’s why Rose (below) is excited. He’ll be 43 in a couple of weeks and that experience counts for something — it happens to count for double or more in one particular environment, especially in the era of huge driving.

Of course, we are discussing links golf. The thinker’s golf. The golf of quirky bounces and wind and craft and guile and multiple roads to the flag. The golf that is so much more than hack and gouge. The golf that brought Tom Watson within one good putt of winning the Open at the age of 59. The golf we will see when the 151st Open Championship begins at Hoylake on Thursday.

Justin Rose (pictured) believes he has the knowledge and experience to help him conquer the Royal Liverpool Golf Club this week at the Open Championship

Justin Rose (pictured) believes he has the knowledge and experience to help him conquer the Royal Liverpool Golf Club this week at the Open Championship

Rose is looking to win only his second ever major after winning the US Open back in 2013

Rose is looking to win only his second ever major after winning the US Open back in 2013

There are also Ryder Cup points up for grabs this week, with the Englishman (middle) having already won this season at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

There are also Ryder Cup points up for grabs this week, with the Englishman (middle) having already won this season at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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‘You know, I’ve been thinking about this a bit,’ he says. ‘I just think there’s elements to the Open that really suit experience. I feel like it is the major that I have shifted my mindset to.

‘The US Open and Masters are the ones that have given me the most opportunity. Obviously I won the US Open (in 2013), had good finishes there and also at Augusta (five top-10s at the US Open, six at the Masters, including runner-up twice).

‘But for the next 10 years of my career I would say the Open is going to give me the most opportunity. You go to the older links golf courses, they offer me the most opportunity game-wise. It’s not about brute force. At some point, you know those other major courses will become too long. But links golf can be about the accumulation of knowledge. So many guys have won the Open in their 40s — Darren Clarke did it. So did Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.’

There has been joy in Rose’s tone throughout 2023. His win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, his 11th victory on the PGA Tour, came four years after his 10th, around the time he was last world No 1.

For a golfer who has won a major and an Olympic gold medal, that was a torturous wait, loaded with doubts and periods of sharp decline. At one point, he fell as low as 84 in the world.

Today, at 32nd in the standings and with five top-10 finishes in his past 13 starts, he has seemingly left behind a mindset where he no longer believed he could win.

‘Most of the year I have felt very good about my game,’ he says, and his hope is for a crescendo at Hoylake. The Open has now become the tournament he most wants to win.

‘The Masters gives you something special because you go back every single year to the same venue and it is unique for that annual walk down memory lane.

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But the Open is the greatest championship.

‘For me it really would be a lovely full circle story, to one day win the Open after everything that happened at Birkdale.’ Rose still enjoys going back to that spot in his memories, when he won the silver medal for best amateur by pitching in from the rough on the 72nd hole.

Will Rose blossom again? Injuries hampered his season last year, but he's been in flying form this season making five top ten finishes

Will Rose blossom again? Injuries hampered his season last year, but he’s been in flying form this season making five top ten finishes

He turned pro the next day and missed the cut at each of his first 21 tournaments — the highs and lows of this maddening sport have rarely seemed so vivid.

‘I can’t believe it’s been 25 years,’ he says. ‘In some ways, it feels like yesterday and in other ways it feels a lifetime ago. When I think of it, I always go to the support of the crowd for this unknown kid, and this carefree attitude that I was able to harness.

‘Golf probably did feel easier in some ways then and I’ve always looked back to it when I have struggled. I’ve always thought, “Hey, how can I get back to being as close to that 17-year-old kid as possible?”.’

They were thoughts that were frequent during his prolonged dip, which was particularly tough in 2021. ‘I played terrible golf at Augusta that year and finished seventh, but it was a hard time.

‘My mind can really spin when I struggle. I can’t just accept it, but you also realise that means you’re hungry. You’re still willing to do the work to prove you’re better than your current situation. When my back is against the wall, it brings out a fighting spirit in me to get through a tough time.’

He did, and this year’s results serve as a vindication of his decision in 2021 to reject an offer of upwards of £30million from LIV. He did so because he still had ambitions in the majors.

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On LIV, and the lack of clarity that followed their recent merger with the PGA and DP World Tours, Rose says: ‘I am in the dark. The way the headlines came out, it all looked like a merger was done and dusted but I think it is softer than that in reality.

‘To simplify it, the goal is unification. The question is how do we all get back together fairly and that is what they have to solve.’

The common perception is that Rory McIlroy was badly burned by the experience, having served as the PGA Tour’s most trenchant supporter prior to their U-turn. By McIlroy’s admission, it took too much attention away from his own golf.

The Englishman comes into the week having missed two cuts in a row at the Scottish Open and the US Open

Rose, aged-17, is looking to make things come full circle in Liverpool this week after he finished fourth in the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale

Rose admitted that he was ‘in the dark’ about things going on with the PGA Tour’s merger with LIV Golf 

He claimed that Rory McIlroy (pictured) had 'probably learned a lot' from LIV's split away from the PGA Tour

He claimed that Rory McIlroy (pictured) had ‘probably learned a lot’ from LIV’s split away from the PGA Tour

‘I think Rory has probably also learned a lot from this process,’ says Rose, his long-time Ryder Cup team-mate. ‘He is going to be a very astute businessman one day, and I think a part of him has probably enjoyed being in the conversation rather than passive.

‘Ultimately, he has played great golf the last couple of years so don’t feel sorry for him at all!

‘He has done a good job and has represented his views and the players well. It has made it, dare I say, entertaining on both sides.’

It has. A political caper that made the business of winning golf tournaments look simple by comparison. But the beauty of a major week is that good sport will always trump bad politics. And there’s no major week quite like a major week on a links course.

new balance



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