Not since 1990, when Sir Nick Faldo followed up his win in the previous year’s Masters Tournament with victory in The Open Championship, has an Englishman claimed Majors in successive seasons, but Justin Rose is hoping to end that 24-year drought next week.
Having finally made his Major breakthrough at last year’s US Open Championship, so fulfilling the prodigious potential he had first shown as a fresh-faced amateur in The 1998 Open Championship, Rose feels he is well-equipped to meet the exacting demands placed on every aspect of a player’s game by Augusta National.
Taken as a whole, of all four Majors Rose’s record in the Masters – notwithstanding his victory at Merion Golf Club last June – is perhaps the most impressive.
In eight previous visits to Bobby Jones’ masterpiece, Rose has never missed the cut and finished inside the top 40 on every occasion, with a tie for fifth place behind American Zach Johnson in 2007 his best performance to date.
It is therefore little wonder that, despite a shoulder injury which has restricted his appearances on both sides of the Atlantic so far this season, Rose approaches his ninth Masters appearance with a good deal of confidence.
He said: “I think it’s a good golf course for me. I know my strategy, and I can see the tee shots. It’s more of a second shot golf course – you really need to be on with your iron play, and over the last few years that’s probably been one of my biggest strengths. My long iron shots in particular have been strong, which really helps on the par fives especially.
“I’ve putted reasonably well in the past at Augusta, too. I like the feel of quick greens. I putt better on fast greens than I do on slow greens, because I slow my putting stroke down and I can also see the breaks better.
“So all things being equal, I feel Augusta is a good fit for me – but it’s also a good fit for a lot of the guys. It doesn’t give me a huge advantage over the field, because you look at the likes of Rory and Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson, and it also fits their profiles. But at least I’m not going in there with any disadvantage.”
Like most players fortunate enough to grace Augusta National, Rose recalls his first visit in 2003 with particular fondness – especially as he squeezed under the cut line.
According to Rose, that should be the primary target for his fellow Europeans Jonas Blixt, Victor Dubuisson and Joost Luiten, all of whom are making their debuts in the 78th edition of the Masters.
He recalled: “The learning curve at Augusta is steep – very steep. I think the general rule is that if you make the cut the first time at Augusta, then that’s a successful performance. Certainly that’s how it was framed in my mind in 2003. I played with Adam Scott and Charles Howell, which was a great pairing.
“I’m not sure if that was their first Augusta or not, but we were all in a very similar mould, at similar ages and breaking through at that time. I think all three of us made the cut, and I remember having to two-putt the ninth hole to make it on the number.
“I was on the wrong level, and was putting down one of those ridges. It was an incredibly fast putt so I did my best to lag it, but still knocked it past and had a four-footer to make the cut, which I made. I still remember the feeling of relief now.
“Just playing at Augusta is an amazing experience for any first-timer – it’s an amazing experience going for the tenth time, to be honest with you. It’s one of the few tournaments where you play practice rounds even though you don’t really need to.
“You already know the course and your strategy, but you can’t resist getting out there on that golf course. It’s a magical place, and I can’t wait to get back there.”