After winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this season and finishing in the top ten in the Masters Tournament, Justin Rose heads to The Open Championship believing a Major breakthrough is his natural next step.
The Englishman has been tipped as a future winner of the Claret Jug ever since he pitched in at the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale in 1998 to finish tied fourth and claim the Silver Medal as a 17 year old amateur.
In the intervening years, Rose has recorded five more top ten finishes in the Majors – including a share of eighth at Augusta National in April – and heads to Royal Lytham & St Annes as World Number Nine and leader of The Race To Dubai.
His maiden World Golf Championships title at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in March underlined the sense that 31 year old Rose is moving towards his ultimate goal of becoming a Major Champion.
“Now I’ve won a WGC, hopefully winning a Major is the natural next step,” he said. “I’ve beaten the best in the world over 72 holes. It’s just a matter of doing it on the right week that is called a Major Championship. I have the ability to do it and I think the courses in general favour me too, so I just need to bide my time. The key is to get into the right frame of mind over the next ten years, which is 40 Majors, and hopefully two or three of them will come my way.
“I will always be known for what I did at The Open as a 17 year old until I go ahead and win it. That will be a nice day when it happens, but you have to enjoy the journey. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. You do your best to prepare yourself and then you just have to let it happen.
“I finished eighth at the Masters and then 21st at the US Open with a whole host of ridiculous mistakes. I only got up and down three out of 11 bunkers at the US Open, which is normally a strength of mine, and I putted poorly too, so when you are doing those sort of things and still finishing in a decent position, there is a lot to make you very positive about the future.”
Rose was still finding his way as a professional when The Open Championship last visited Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2001, but a first round 69 propelled him into the headlines once again.
Rounds of 72 and 74 followed as he slipped back but a closing round of 70 meant he finished in tied 30th position, as David Duval went on to win the Claret Jug, but Rose is hopeful that he will be contending this time round.
“I’ve not been back to Lytham since The 2001 Open but it is course that I have always enjoyed,” he said. “I played the Lytham Trophy there as an amateur and I hear there have been some changes so I look forward to scouting the course and getting to know it again.
“In 2001, I remember making the cut and I was middle of the pack on Sunday and making the decision to hit driver on every hole, just to really see if I could shoot a low score. I had nothing to lose. I remember playing quite well. I had a good first round, faded into the pack, and then had a decent final round, trying to be aggressive.
“The Lytham Trophy was always a great test of golf as an amateur and it is a great area as well. That whole area has a lot of great course and so for people coming to watch the tournament there is so much going on. It will be an exciting Open Championship which will be very well attended and I am looking forward to it.
“Any Open Championship, regardless of the venue, is always a special occasion. Growing up as a kid it was always the one that I wanted to win more than any other. So going there as a true contender is always an exciting feeling.”