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Rose Going for Two Majors in a Row


Justin Rose has a good feeling heading into this week's Open Championship at Muirfield. And why wouldn't he? With his victory in last month's U.S. Open at Merion, the 32-year-old became the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo in 1996 and the first Brit to win a U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

In addition, he sees similarities between the two championship venues and is coming in prepared. Though he recognizes the famed Scottish links are different than the fabled parkland-style layout near Philadelphia, his approach will be similar to the formula he so successfully used at Merion.

"They're polar opposites in the sense of how the ball is reacting on the ground, but they're similar in the sense of the strategy in them," Rose said on the eve of the 142nd Open Championship. "Merion, I hit a lot of irons off the tee. I played defensively, sort of conservatively, and I felt that was the best way to approach it. Now I made that decision to play that way when there was talk of 14-under and talk of 62s, but that's just the way I saw the golf course.

"Obviously as it turned out I was lucky that my game plan turned out to be exactly the right one, with 1-over par winning the tournament. That's my challenge this week, to see the golf course the right way, to set a game plan that not only keeps me out of trouble but is aggressive enough to make the most of the opportunities when they come around. So I think for me it's going to be quite a cautious game plan off the tee.

"Once again, avoid the bunkers," Rose added. "The rough is obviously up, but once you're in the rough, you can catch the odd good lie, as well. Even though the hay looks like it's a foot deep, once you're in it, it's a little sparser than it may look from the tee. But I think you need to respect the golf course around here."

As befitting a reigning U.S. Open champion, Rose will be in one of the opening round's marquee threesomes. He'll be paired with defending champion and four-time major winner Ernie Els and American Brandt Snedeker, who's ranked eighth in the latest World Golf Ranking.

Here's what Rose had to tell reporters during his Q&A on Wednesday at Muirfield.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Delighted to welcome Justin Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion to join us today. Justin, congratulations. That was a fabulous win at Merion. You must be delighted to come into the Open Championship with the opportunity to win back-to-back major championships, how does it feel.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. The Open Championship as a British player is the one event you look forward to more than any other all year. Obviously it's the home Open. And coming in here off the back of my first major, and obviously the U.S. Open, makes it even more special, I guess even more exciting than normal. And, yeah, I'm looking forward to getting to play again. I've had three weeks off, and obviously the idea of the three weeks off was just to get basically my legs back under me, basically get back 100 percent ready to play again. And I feel that's been the case. I've spent over the last couple of weeks just with family and getting my hunger back for wanting to get back out on the range and get back into practice and get back into practice mode.

Q. Does it worry you that you've taken that time off now? Do you wish you'd maybe played a little bit more in the last few weeks or did you really need that time?

JUSTIN ROSE: I'm going to need that time if I'm going to get into contention and have a chance to win on Sunday. That's when the freshness and the break will serve me well. Obviously getting there is going to be the hard part. There's a lot of good golf I need to play in order to be in contention on Sunday, but should that be the case, then absolutely. That's when the break is going to be necessary, I think.

Q. Your good friend Adam Scott was in this morning and alluded to the fact that he needed to get tougher. Tom Watson had told him he needed to toughen up in terms of closing a major championship. Is that something that you became aware of as well over the years?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I mean there's times in my career where I haven't been able to close out tournaments as well as I'd like. And I think that it's been a learning process, and it's been sort of self-improvement over the years that's enabled me to get to the point where I now believe in myself 100 percent down the stretch. And that's getting tougher. If you trust yourself under pressure, then I don't think you can get any tougher than that, to be honest with you. The game is hard; you're not going to win it every time. But if you feel like you're going to stand up to the pressure and believe in yourself, and you feel like you have the skills to deal with it, then I think that's all you can do. The rest of it is a break here, a bounce here. But it's how you deal with the pressure in the moment. And obviously for me at Merion that's what it was all about. Me signaling up to my dad, before I'd even won, it was the fact that I didn't know I'd definitely won - I thought I had won obviously - but it's about how I had competed on a Sunday. And I felt I had done the job I needed to do. As a golfer that's all you can do. You can control your emotions and control your own game, and I think that's how you become a tough competitor.

Q. You waited a long time for your first major. Since arriving at Muirfield have you noticed people treating you a little bit differently now, a little special privileges and things like that, and people's attitude to you, now that you've got it under your belt?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I guess it's twofold. Obviously I've been a pro 15 years, so I have waited a long time to win my first major, but on the other hand I feel like I've won it quite quickly, in the sense that I've only felt ready to win a major in the last couple of years. So I feel very grateful to have that monkey off my back with a long time ahead of me in the game still and hopefully at my best. That's exciting. And the other part is, yeah, there's more demands in terms of just people wanting your autograph, people sort of asking you questions. Obviously this week the challenge for me is I haven't seen most of the golfing world since I won at the U.S. Open. So obviously a lot of well wishes, which is great. But the challenge for me is going to be staying in this tournament, not being dragged back to Merion every five minutes. So that's the only challenge that's happening this week.

Q. Have they put you in a better car to bring you to the course?

JUSTIN ROSE: No. I think everyone is looked after perfectly well this week. Royal Box at Wimbledon was the obvious perk, I guess, to being back home and being U.S. Open champion.

Q. Given your proximity to links golf, are you a bit surprised that your best finish is still 1998 in The Open Championship?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, a little bit, for sure. But I feel like results-wise, yeah, if you look at my results, they're really not very good in this tournament. But I would say that the reality is a little bit better than that. I felt that 2009 at Turnberry I felt like I had a good chance to win there. Just nothing really went my way on Sunday, and putted poorly for the most part on that day. But I was so close to being right in the hunt there at Turnberry. This tournament in 2002 I was tied third going into the last round. Obviously just a little bit young and needed a lot more experience under my belt, but given that sort of similar situation this year, that's a situation I'd once again relish. So I have put myself in some better positions than my results card sort of says, speaks. I do feel comfortable on links golf. I think having grown up having played so much of it in the amateur game, you know how to play it. The yardage book means very little this week. And I think only experience can really help you through that. I see no reason why I shouldn't do well here. But like you say, the stats don't read that well.

Q. You won the U.S. Open on a course at Merion that was very soft. Can you talk about the different challenge and have you had to adapt anything in your game to cope with that?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, they're polar opposites in the sense of how the ball is reacting on the ground, but they're similar in the sense of the strategy in them. Merion I hit a lot of irons off the tee. I played defensively, sort of conservatively, and I felt that was the best way to approach it. Now I made that decision to play that way when there was talk of 14-under and talk of 62s, but that's just the way I saw the golf course. Obviously as it turned out I was lucky that my game plan turned out to be exactly the right one, with 1-over par winning the tournament. That's my challenge this week, to see the golf course the right way, to set a game plan that not only keeps me out of trouble but is aggressive enough to make the most of the opportunities when they come around. So I think for me it's going to be quite a cautious game plan off the tee. Once again, avoid the bunkers. The rough is obviously up, but once you're in the rough, you can catch the odd good lie, as well. Even though the hay looks like it's a foot deep, once you're in it, it's a little sparser than it may look from the tee. But I think you need to respect the golf course around here.

Q. You have a very technically proficient swing, you're very aware of angles and alignment. How does that translate to the imaginative sort of shots you need to hit here?

JUSTIN ROSE: I think what I've had - I've always described my relationship with Sean Foley as Sean is incredibly technical, but he's not mechanical. So I don't really - I get wrapped up in the technique and the understanding of how it all works and the numbers that I need to sort of achieve through impact, but I do it in a kinesthetic way, feeling it, rather than sort of placing the club in positions. I do boil it down to fairly simple feels. And I feel like when I play my best I have one or two thoughts, but they're more feels. And I feel that my process, I see the shot and then I can feel what I want to do with the club and body, and then I go ahead and hit it. I feel like it lends it well. The course and the style lends itself to the way I feel and see the game. And also the way my caddie and I go through our process is that we always boil it down to a number. And there is a lot of feel involved, but there's also a lot of guesstimation, I guess, because it's not perfect art out there. You do need to run the numbers in your head. If you can only hit it 270, it's downwind, you take off 20 yards, and then you've got to think about 30 yards of run-out. So there's many, many factors that you have to start thinking about. But you do need to bring it back to feel. Feel really comes in when it's blowing 20, 30 miles an hour. When it's not blowing that hard, I think you can be a lot more precise, possibly, if that makes any sense. I was all over the place.

Q. There's been a lot of talk this week comparing this to Merion, that it's a ball-striker's place. It suits the great ball-strikers. Do you see that as a similarity between here and Merion?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I'm hoping so. I think that that was definitely going to be the case if there was some rain in the forecast and, say, the rough had gotten a little thicker than it was now, I definitely thought it was going to be very, very similar to Merion. But the fact that it's going to be a dust bowl out there might change it a little bit. I don't quite know how it's going to impact the scoring yet. But you're going to have to keep the ball out of trouble, which is exactly what you had to do at Merion. At Merion if you missed a shot, more than likely you're making a bogey. Here at Muirfield if you miss a shot in the bunkers, you're more than likely going to make a bogey. You can catch a decent lie in the rough and maybe make a good scrambling par, but I think really the bunkers off the tee, like any links golf course, that's what you've got to avoid. My strategy will be built around that and hopefully the ball-striking will be able to cooperate.

Q. Could you give us some more examples of unexpected or exciting things that have happened to you as being a major golf championship winner.

JUSTIN ROSE: Not really. It's exciting just - only from a personal point of view. There's a lot of work that goes into it. And just waking up - I've pretty much carried the trophy around for the most part for the last month. And just being able to share it with friends and family and people that have known me since I was 12 years old. And now they're getting a chance to have a picture with the U.S. Open trophy. Or be able to have dinner and have it sitting on the table. Just little moments amongst close friends and family, that's what really makes it special. But other than that it's kind of - like I say, I've tucked myself away over the last couple of weeks just with friends and family. I haven't been really doing anything crazy or elaborate. That's what I've enjoyed most about it.

Q. You're a part of this generation of English golfers, you and Luke Donald, I guess, and Ian Poulter and Paul Casey. Being the first one of that generation to win a major, do you think that has any kind of bearing on others as they try to win their first?

JUSTIN ROSE: Well, I think it probably makes them even more determined, even more hungry to do it. And I think we don't really go into it with a team mentality. Golf is an individual game, but we are friends with one another. We've played a lot of golf with one another. When you see one of your friends and rivals even, go ahead and do it, and you believe in yourself to be capable of achieving what they're achieving, it gives you that incentive and that belief possibly that you can go ahead and do it yourself. But I'm sure the boys are looking at it and thinking, okay, my turn could be around the corner and just got to persevere.

Q. You said that it's vital that you stop yourself drifting back to the U.S. Open in your mind while you're here. What safeguards have you put in place to stop that happening?

JUSTIN ROSE: Well, I think it's almost impossible to do it today and yesterday. Otherwise you're sort of blanking everybody, and that's not the way I go about things. I think that happens for me tonight and it happens for me in the morning. I think it's a lot easier - once tomorrow comes around, tomorrow is about The Open Championship, and the rest is irrelevant. So I think it will be a lot easier to do tomorrow.

Q. You've just come through this seismic event, how do you stop your mind drifting back? What will you do?

JUSTIN ROSE: Well, I mean I think it's easier from me to do it - if I'm left alone on the golf course, just me and my caddie, it's pretty easy for me to focus on what I need to focus on. It's when you have the outside distractions that prevents you from doing that. But when you're playing a tournament, you're in a controlled environment and it's business as usual. So I'm hoping to click back into all the habits that I've built over the years that produced good golf.

Q. Faldo said yesterday he was going to practice with you today. Have you done that?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, we played nine holes this morning.

Q. How did that go? He's got great experience here. Did he offer advice? Did you learn anything from him? And how did he play?

JUSTIN ROSE: To be honest, we had a friendly nine holes. I sort of asked him a couple of questions, just curious about his U.S. Open record and career and we talked about that a little bit. Actually Nick is hitting the ball quite well, to be honest with you. He drove the ball well and hit it solid. He said he's pretty happy with the putting feels. He's got a new method with the putter where he feels he can step up and make a stroke. He was talking positively about playing a little more golf, seeing how this week goes. But we didn't dive too much into the golf course. Obviously I feel like I've become pretty good at setting up my own game plan, and at the end of the day you've got to play to your own strengths. I think the course this year is probably playing so much different than years past as well, with it being so firm and fast. It may be that things that worked in years gone don't necessarily - are not as relevant this year. But. We just had a nice nine holes, basically. It was just good to be out with him. That was it, really.

Q. Pardon an off-beat question here, but what do you think about the job the engraver does with the Claret Jug, often under high-pressure situations such as last year? And please feel free to be as witty as you'd like.

JUSTIN ROSE: I'm hoping I'm get a two-for-one deal this year, because I think he's going to engrave the U.S. Open trophy for me. Obviously the big difference between the U.S. Open and the Open Championship is that you get the trophy with your name on it at the prize ceremony. Obviously with the U.S. Open you get it done yourself. So I'm hoping I get a discount for bulk (laughter).

Q. I think you arrived here in 2002 in an Austin Powers Jag in the company of a Mr. Poulter. Have you arrived in similar style again?

JUSTIN ROSE: I'm carless this year. So I won't be able to -- I think last year, the nose is so long in that Jag, I think when I was parking, I touched the front wall as I was parking up. So I wasn't off to the best starts. I think I'll be a little bit more under the radar. That was obviously all a bit fun. But the Shaguar, as it was called, was a bit fun (laughter).

Q. Justin, although it is a very tough week, is it fun to be able to play a completely different sort of game to the one you normally play, the high ball in and dropping it. Here you've got all the different directions of the holes, so the different directions of the wind, you've got to take a look and where you've got to bounce it so it goes 50 yards further? Can that be quite a fun thing to do?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. But I don't see it at alien or as different as you may think. You still have to go ahead and make a good golf swing. Unless it gets incredibly windy, you're not altering your trajectory that much. You've still got to hit good golf shots. The calculations in your head is the very difficult thing. And the perception of distance, because you're standing up and you're 180 yards away from the hole and visually you hit a 9-iron, it just doesn't feel right. Even if you have a five-mile-an-hour wind behind you, that could be a 9-iron. Just the trust in the bounce and the trust in the roll is what you have to get used to.

Q. Isn't it more visualization and imagination rather than just that regulation swing?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yes, at times, for sure. But even pitching and pitch-and-runs, sometimes I feel that you can try and overdo the pitch, chip-and-running, because you have so many little humps and hollows and mounds between you and the hole. If you try to run the ball through it - for me there's so many variables involved and if you can take out the wedge and fly a lot of that, put one bounce, a bit of spin on the ball, if you have good technique, to be able to trust how the ball is going to react once the ball bounces, again that's more of a standard shot. But I feel sometimes you come into links golf and you feel like you need to try all these fancy chip-and-runs, and bump-and-runs, and low punches off the tee, that sometimes can be unnecessary at times, too. There are shots that you need here that are different, but they're maybe more few and far between than what you may think. That's my opinion, anyway.

Q. Assuming the weather forecast stays as it is, moderate winds, firm, fast turf, what do you think the winning score might be?

JUSTIN ROSE: I really don't know, but I'm thinking, with good weather, I still think that 8-under is going to be a great score around here.

MODERATOR: Justin, thanks for coming.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.