Justin Rose adhered closely to his dictum that the best way to sooth the pain of a missed cut is to win a tournament when he fired a six under par 65 to lead the field after the first round of The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.
The young Englishman has been as fickle as the West of Scotland weather this year, and his two victories on The European Tour International Schedule have both followed missed cuts. The fact that he only contested two rounds in last week’s Smurfit European Open hinted that he has plans to test his theory one again.
“I can’t explain my roller coaster season, but my motto is: ‘Don’t get mad, get even’. That’s how my year has been really. I have been getting success off the back of a bad week rather than from a good run of tournaments and I’m at a loss to explain it.
“However I think it’s a sign that when I do have a poor week I don’t panic or worry about my game. It’s all mental. The technique’s there. It’s just a case of whether my mind gets focused into the week.”
There was nothing wrong with Rose’s focus or concentration at Loch Lomond on a day of bright sunshine and heat interspersed by the odd downpour. Thanks principally to a controlled outward half of 31, five under par, Rose was on a roll.
He leads by one shot from Swede Fredrik Jacobson and the current Asprey Golfer of the Month, Miles Tunnicliff, who has mined a rich vein of confidence since winning The Great North Open. The Marbells-based Englishman shot a 66 to be sandwiched between Rose and a group of four players on 67 Warren Bennett, John Bickerton, Scottish amateur Barry Hume and two-time Major Champion Sandy Lyle.
At the start of the year Rose didn’t stay the distance in the Bell’s South African Open before capturing the dunhill championship. He also spent the weekend off during the Volvo PGA Championship before emerging champion at the Victor Chandler British Masters.
His missed cut in Dublin left Rose feeling disappointed but not downcast. He said: “It’s funny because I haven’t played well and was trying to find my game. But I hit a couple of good iron shots and once I got to three under and saw my name on the board, I started to play and putt really well.”
Rose somehow extricated himself from a nasty position wide of the 12th fairway to escape with a miraculous bogey, having already dropped a stroke at the 11th. But he finished strongly with back to back birdies at the 14th and 15th to get round in 65.
Tunnicliff had provided the season’s most emotive moment, winning at De Vere Slaley Hall last month just two weeks after losing his inspirational mother, Pam, to cancer. A week at home to reflect and savour his achievement worked wonders following a missed cut in the Murphy’s Irish Open, and his solid 66 contained three twos.
“I decided to take a break because there was so much going on and I found it difficult to concentrate"”he explained. “I took the week off and let everything sink in a little bit and I think it did me good. It’s not changed my life, but it has certainly changed my career. It’s amazing how one week can turn things around.
“It was very emotional. I remember doing an interview straight afterwards and I was really struggling to hold back the tears, thinking about my mum.”
Jacobson, in the penultimate match on the course, finished a long day just before 9pm with two straight birdies to join Tunnicliff in second place.
Lyle, showing a resurgence in form recently, birdied three of the last five holes for 67 and he admitted that his renaissance is all the sweeter from enduring some dark days in the past after his memorable wins in the Open Championship and the Masters Tournament.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for for a long time” he acknowledged. “I always felt I could play a lot better tan I was, I wasn’t even at 70 per cent of my game and you just can’t compete in Europe like that.
“It’s a hard struggle mentally, too, which is why it was nice in the last couple of months to come out here and hit the ball well and scoring better.”
While one middle aged Scot was putting on an impressive show, a 20 year old amateur from Glasgow, Hume, was matching his achievement. Despite a 4.50 rise and minor difficulties with a car parking attendant after forgetting his pass, the youngster played exquisitely, birdieing three of the first four holes.
Last month he played solidly in the Victor Chandler British Masters and made the cut, an experience which helped him at Loch Lomond. He said: “It did, definitely. I was quite comfortable with it.”
Bennett displayed signs of a return to form after closing with a pair of birdies from 15 feet and 20 feet respectively. Injury had thwarted his progress recently and he said: “It’s been a long time coming. I went over my ankle at the dunhill links championship. When I came back at the start of the season I didn’t know which end of the club was which.
“I couldn’t get into a groove. It’s been very frustrating because I then suffered a rib injury at Woburn during the Victor Chandler British Masters. I am feeling fine now and I could feel the juices flowing again today.”
Bickerton, who has recently started consulting sports psychologist, John Alsopp, found a bit of self belief to shoot 67 and commented: “I was failing miserably at times and not understanding why, so I just wanted to see what somebody in John’s field makes of me. I had never done it before and today it was nice to focus better.”
Ernie Els, the 2000 winner, was joined by European Ryder Cup Captain, Sam Torrance, in a group of six players on 68 while other previous winners at Loch Lomond did not fare so well with defending champion Retief Goosen and Colin Montgomerie shooting 72s, Thomas Björn a 75 and Lee Westwood a 76.