The Olympic Champion talks about his pride at hosting this week’s Sky Sports British Masters, his rapport with the British public, a special year in his glittering career, and much more...
I feel like it is a real honour to host the British Masters. I’m the fourth guy to do it now, and Poults, Luke and Westy have all done great jobs hosting this tournament before me. Four years has seemed to go really quickly. I can’t believe this week, and my turn, is now upon us. But I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve enjoyed the commitments in the year building up to it, and it hasn’t felt like hard work as the Tour have been great in making it as easy as possible. A couple of my good mates from the Ryder Cup are joining me at Walton Heath, including the Moliwood pairing, which is great. Everyone is excited to see them play again and I think it will help to get people to come along to Walton Heath, which is one of my favourite courses.
Each host has brought something unique to the hosting role. I think we all approach the challenge of hosting slightly differently. Each venue, and each host’s circumstances are different, which is great for the tournament. Last year, for example, Westy took the British Masters somewhere which is incredibly personal to him at Close House. For me, it was a case of choosing a venue which shows British golf in a positive light and choosing one of my favourite golf courses and a style of golf which I grew up on. I grew up playing North Hants in Hampshire, which is a heathland golf course and Walton Heath is one of the purest forms of heathland golf in this country, along with Sunningdale. All the hosts have done a great job as the face of the tournament, and we’ve each tried to add something a little personal. That has helped make the hosting programme a success. I’ve tried to bring some of my own touches this week, little things like we’ve built a gym at the golf course, we’ve taken the Hero Challenge into the city of London at Canary Wharf and we got Cadbury to make some special treats for the players which they’ll receive over the coming days. So it’s been good fun trying to do something a little different.
I’ve always felt like I’ve had great support from the British public. I guess right from the Birkdale days in 1998, I’ve had a bit of attention. Then I had all the missed cuts and came back from those, so I think people have followed my story and my career. I’ve not contended in Open Championships as much as I would have liked, but when I’ve been on the leaderboard there people have supported me, and I love playing at Wentworth, which is a home event for me having grown up 20 minutes away from there. So it is always nice to come back and play in British events, but it is also catch-22, as the crowd will you on, and they really want you to play well, so you have to manage that. I enjoy it though and for me it doesn’t get better than playing golf in the UK. The crowds are passionate golf fans, but they are also respectful and knowledgeable golf fans. They are a joy to play in front of.
It’s great coming home to catch up with my friends too. I’ve got a good group of guys who I grew up with. We still get together yearly and try to play some golf somewhere across the globe. It’s getting harder and harder as we all get married and have kids. Gone are the days or weeks in Las Vegas and that kind of stuff, but we still try to get together because we have that common bond of golf. It’s a great thing. They play me off plus ten and they play off their handicaps and it’s all incredibly competitive and close. We have a lot of fun doing it. They’re not the type of guys who WhatsApp or text every day, but you pick up where you left off every few months. Those are often your closest and best friends.
The Ryder Cup was obviously pretty special too. Each Ryder Cup victory is different, but I think I will remember 2018 for the discipline and focus we showed. So many Ryder Cups are about passion and emotion. This one was about commitment, determination and focus. The team was extremely disciplined and it was a calm team. We were cool and collected, and it always felt like we were in control. We didn’t panic when we went 3-1 down after the first session. Everyone knew their role, and everyone contributed. I think the Sunday played out perfectly in many ways. If I had a dream for that Sunday, it would have been for Tommy and Francesco to go five from five, Jon Rahm to win a point, Thorbjørn Olesen to win a point and for Sergio to become Europe’s leading points scorer. To get four out of those five - all but Tommy winning his point – meant it was a dream Sunday for us at The Ryder Cup.
🇪🇺👬👬👬🏆👮🏻👬👬👬 🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/6DZnZsQIj6— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) September 30, 2018
It’s been a long season, so you’ve got to look after yourself. Fitness certainly plays a big part in that. As I’ve got older, I’ve understood more the importance of recovery and having discipline in terms of my approach. I need to control the variables as best I can to dictate my performance. A huge part of that is the diligence of 20 minutes pre-round stretching, warming up and activating certain muscle groups. You’ve got to stay healthy. You can’t just walk out cold and hit balls. If you do that, you are exposing yourself to risk. It’s incredibly boring at times – you’d love to wake up, have a cup of tea and spend extra time at breakfast and just go to the range. I’d love to do that, but the importance of those 20-30 minutes to prepare for every round is so key to staying fit and healthy. That’s where the idea behind having Justin’s Gym at the tournament came from, but golf in general is becoming more and more athletic. Over the years, I’ve started to hit the ball longer. Technology has helped, but at the same time I’ve worked hard on my physical capabilities to allow myself to hit it further. I now play with guys like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson. I’m not as long as them, but I don’t feel like I’m giving up an advantage to them either, which is key. The work you put in away from tournaments is vital in this sense. I liken it to being an actor. You learn your lines away from being on tour or on set, and then you deliver your performance on stage or on camera. The main work is done away from this, behind close doors, and for me that is the time in the gym and hitting balls.
Morning! 🇧🇸 ☀ pic.twitter.com/kqmYqnJrxS— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) August 14, 2018