With two victories in the last five weeks, and winning this week after losing a six-shot lead last week, Justin Rose has to be considered a serious contender in the upcoming British Open. Ahead of Lee Westwood. Ahead of Ian Poulter. Possibly ahead of Rory McIlroy. And even ahead of US Open champ Graeme McDowell.
The British Open is where Rose came to prominence. He burst onto the stage as a skinny 17-year-old amateur in the 1998 British Open. There, he holed out to tie for fourth, immediately turned professional, and pretty much disappeared from the scene. Rose did not make it through European Tour Q-School in 1998 and had to return in 1999 and 2000 to secure playing cards.
Finally, in 2002, nearly four years after his miracle chip-in, he captured the Dunhill Championship. He followed that up with victories at the Nashua Masters in South Africa, the Crowns Tournament in Japan, and the Victor Chandler British Masters, all in 2002.
Rose then headed for the US, where he would face another steep learning curve. He was without victory in seven and a half seasons in the US until the Memorial, although he did win the Volvo Masters on the European Tour in the fall of 2006. Now with two victories in a short period of time, he has gone from "who's he?" to "he's a contender."
How does a person keep going with big expectations and years of harsh disappointment?
“From finishing fourth at the Open, I would have expected all this, this would have been normal, and then eight months or a year later, it was like, whew, I don't know, can I get back on Tour,” Rose admitted after his second US victory at the AT&T National. “It's been a long, hard road, really. But I think I have learned more in the tough times. Playing today is a lot easier than grinding to make cuts, especially the way I had it, missing 21 in a row.”
The 21 missed cuts, according to Rose, were harder than trying to win this week or last week or at the Memorial.
“It felt like every time I had a chance to make a cut, cameras would appear out of the trees and suddenly I would feel the heat,” he said. “Playing under that pressure to make cuts when you're not playing well, that was hard.”
His experience, believing professional golf would be a cinch, and then struggling to keep his card, helped him overcome the frustration of losing a six-shot lead a week ago.
“It's not really that big a deal if I do put it in complete perspective and put it back 10 years. But it does seem like a lifetime ago now,” he added. “I feel like I've had two or three careers. I feel like I'm two or three different people. You know, the young kid, and then the journeyman, and then the working my way back to being the player I wanted to be in the first place.”
Justin Rose can lay claim to an achievement few others have: Two victories when Tiger Woods is in the field. OK, it’s a struggling Tiger Woods, but it’s still Tiger Woods.
Tiger Woods’ last victory was in the 2009 BMW Championship in September of 2009, his sixth for the season.