Justin Rose is on a gruelling, three-continent swing to complete his golfing year. A fortnight ago he was in the Middle East, chasing big dollars in the European tour’s season-ender, and last week he was in Sun City, South Africa. Tomorrow, he tees off at The Lakes in a bid to win his first Emirates Australian Open.
It is a demanding schedule but one that the world No. 4 holds no regrets about. “I’ve spent the majority of the times in the (United) States the last couple of years, but I’ve always regarded myself as an international player, a global player,’’ he said today. “I felt that with my game in good shape it was a nice opportunity to play these sorts of events. The Australian Open has a great, illustrious list of champions. It is a tournament I have always held in high regard. I thought it would be a nice way to finish a good year.’’
In Dubai at the season-ending European tour championship a fortnight ago, the Briton shot 62 on the final day but could not edge out world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who birdied the last five holes. “I walked on to the 18th tee with a two-shot lead and I made birdie,’’ he said. “Ninety nine times out of 100 that would be enough. But Rory’s pretty hot right now.
“He is playing some great golf under pressure. To finish with five straight birdies to win a golf tournament, you have to take your hat off to him. From my point of view, I felt the nerves, I felt the pressure all the way down the stretch and I kept hitting quality shot after quality shot. Ultimately, that is all you can do and you have to be proud about that.’’
At the Sun City tournament last week he played poorly, a fact he put down to catching up with family and finding himself distracted. Rose was born in South Africa, and has many relatives there still. Among those he caught up with were his 90-year-old grandmother, a delight for the player. But the time away from the course impacted on his result on it.
“Sometimes when you are around family, subconsciously you want to play really, really well for them,’’ he said. “I think there was an element of frustration. I think it was the first week when the season caught up with me. That is natural. I think you are allowed to play poorly once in a while and let it be water off a duck's back.’’
It is Rose’s first visit to Australia since he won the 2006 Australian Masters at Huntingdale. He last competed in an Australian Open at Royal Adelaide in 1998 as a young professional, making his way. Now he is a world class player who performed heroically for Europe at the Ryder Cup this year.
Rose is one of the marquee attractions at this week’s Emirates Australian Open. He tees off at 7.10am tomorrow with Adam Scott, “one of my best friends on tour’’, and Chinese player Wenchong Liang.