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Rose Hopes to Bloom Again at Doral


Justin Rose is back to defend his title in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. The $8.75 million PGA Tour event starts Thursday at the TPC Blue Monster Course at Doral in Miami, Fla.

Last year, the Englishman entered the final round facing a three-stroke deficit to Bubba Watson. But, despite a bogey on the Blue Monster's brutal 18th hole, Rose polished off a 2-under 70 to edge Watson, who closed with a 74, by a stroke.

Though his win at the Cadillac was the most recent of his four Tour titles, Rose played consistently following Doral; overall in 2012, he logged eight top-10 finishes in 19 starts. He finished sixth in the season-long FedEx Cup standings, and is currently fifth in the world golf ranking.

For his outstanding 2012 season, Rose earned a spot on the 2012 European Ryder Cup team. He went 3-2 at Medinah near Chicago; his clutch putts on the final two holes in his victorious singles match over Phil Mickelson helped the Euros retain the Cup.

The 32-year-old, who now resides in Lake Nona, Fla., is coming off a fourth-place tie in last week's Honda Classic, finishing six strokes behind winner Michael Thompson. On the year, Rose has two top-25 finishes in only two events, with earnings of $322,200 so far.

On Tuesday, Rose met with reporters and talked about the importance of his win at Doral and how it became a springboard to a successful 2012 campaign. Here's what he had to say during the following Q&A.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Justin Rose to the interview room. The last time you were in here we were congratulating you as champion of the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship. Maybe just start us off by talking about how it feels to be back here defending your title at Doral.

JUSTIN ROSE: Obviously it definitely feels good to be back here at Doral. Great memories, biggest tournament win of my career. So stepping up to a WGC was a fantastic moment, and being able to share it with the family and like Brian just said, my little boy, Leo, was running around for a moment or two. But yeah, great times, good memories and it's good to be back. I'm already beginning to see some subtle changes and a new sort of stamp on the place with it obviously being in Donald Trump's hands. I think obviously it's in for some big changes, but it's nice to come back as defending champion if you like to, play the same golf course as you did the year before.

Q. How do you feel about this course being turned upside down after you played so well on it last year?

JUSTIN ROSE: We play a lot of resorts. Sometimes after 20, 30 years, they need a bit of an update and I think this golf course will benefit from it. It's got some great holes, and some iconic holes like the 18th hole; and by all accounts that 18th hole will not change significantly, which I think is a good thing because you still want to be able to come to Doral and recognize it as Doral. But I think it needs to maybe get back to living up to its reputation as the Blue Monster. It's been fairly low scoring here the last few years, and I think a revamp is going to certainly do it some good.

Q. Not to bring up some bad memories but you had some moments early in your career, some struggles you went through on the golf course and wonder if you can maybe share, think back to what was the toughest part getting through that for you.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, sure. I've done a fairly good job of blocking it out. (Laughter). I think the perceived sort of expectation I thought was on me at the time after the Open Championship, I always thought that people were probably caring more than they actually did about what I'm shooting out on the golf course. So my perspective was just a bit off. I think I was thrown into it a little bit too soon. I was happy to turn pro at 17, but to sort of turn pro quietly, I was hoping to get a couple invites, work my way to Q School at the end of the year, probably get a Challenge Tour card, spend a year on the Challenge Tour, etc., etc., so I had a three year plan.

But all of a sudden after the Open Championship, I think the expectations are what I really, really struggled with. And I think I probably went through I think I went through a growth phase at the time through that period of time, too, and it threw things off, and with the pressure and losing my golf swing a little bit, it was just hard work. But I put all my faith in hard work though to be honest with you, as well, and I somehow credit perspective if I missed the cut by five one week, missed by two the following week, I would kind of tell myself I was making progress and not just keep sort of beating myself up further. So that's how I sort of played my way out of it.

Q. What did you learn from it?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I learned golf's tough. Golf's hard. You've got to keep working hard. It's a game that can bite you and it also taught me to appreciate the good moments, as well, absolutely. It's also taught me that the pre share playing to win a tournament is far more fun than the pressure of trying to make a cut; so to try and relish those moments.

Q. Would you rather be under the spotlight for missing 21 cuts in a row or walking out of a tournament as No. 1 in the world with a multi million dollar Nike contract?

JUSTIN ROSE: Ba boom (laughter). I guess you can play your way out of trouble a lot quicker when you're No. 1 in the world. You know, facing a little bit of obviously pressure and expectation that's on Rory right now, he has the skill set and the talent to possible turn it around a lot quicker. I still had a lot of learning to do and my game wasn't in maybe the right level to compete at the very highest level at that point. Yeah, obviously no doubt, Rory has a little bit of work ahead of him in the next few weeks. It's obviously a little bit heightened after last week, but it wasn't so long ago there was a mini Rory snub and all of a sudden he lit up the summer and was the best golfer in the world; so talking about catching Tiger and all these sorts of things. It's a funny game. Doesn't take long to turn around either way.

Q. If I remember a year ago, you were playing pretty much all the way through in Florida just to take stock in your game at the end, if I remember right. Wonder if you can compare where you are now to, say, a year ago.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I sort of had a 16 round plan last year, I wanted just to keep my head down for 16 rounds of golf. Well, I knew that my game was in good shape and I just had to I believed that if I just didn't look up for 16 rounds, something good was going to happen, somewhere through the middle of it, somewhere along the line. And that's exactly what did happen. Ran out of steam a little bit towards the end of the 16 rounds, maybe sort of Tampa, Bay Hill, but I feel like my game is in similar shape this year really coming into this tournament. You know, top 5 last week at the Honda and feel pretty comfortable with how I'm hitting it. If that putter warms up just a little bit, which is what happened here last year, then I think chances are good for getting back into contention. I'm also trying to pace myself possibly a little bit more this year through this stretch to stay fresh for Augusta and stay fresh for the summer through the majors and give myself as good a chance as I can.

Q. Were you not as fresh for the Masters given how much you played?

JUSTIN ROSE: I'm not sure. Heading into last season, I played late in December; I started early, went to the Middle East early January. So just a little cautious of doing too much at this point, as well. I didn't feel over golfed at this time last year but I just don't want that to be the case.

Q. Confidence is such a big part of golf. How much extra confidence do you get knowing that you're back at a place where you've won already? How much does that add to then getting rid of some of the other stress of all the other stuff you talked about?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think that only comes into play if I put myself in contention down the back nine on Sunday. Teeing up on Thursday, to be honest with you, defending champion, it's nice and all, but it doesn't really mean much and factor much. I mean, the other 77 guys in this field are not really going to care who won it last year. We all go about our business to put ourselves in contention on Sunday. So should I do that, then that's going to be - I'll be able to have a nice conversation with myself down the back nine, just stick with it just as you did last year, all worked out and hopefully I'll draw some confidence on that at the right time.

Q. It seems like more and more fans are screaming out inane, sometimes crazy things, and on Sunday, a fan yelled out something to Michael Thompson or said something right as Michael Thompson was putting; if he had missed the putt, it could have become part of the story. Do you think it's getting worse? Does something need to be done? Or do you guys just have to become, you know, more deaf to the noise?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, there's definitely a changing mentality out there for sure. I think you experience at the Ryder Cup where golf - the Ryder Cup transcends golf and you get sports fans turning up to watch golf and obviously there's a different etiquette that's required at a football game than a golf game. In that scenario, you have to deal with it. But you look at some of the golf that's played at the Ryder Cup, and it's amazing how players do deal with it. It's very hard to deal with one crazy fan who shouts in the middle of your backswing. I mean, that's pretty much impossible to deal with. But the general murmur that goes on now, holes like Phoenix, there is no silence anymore out there; it's just a general kind of rattling of noise. And obviously tournaments like last week at the Honda, they are trying to create that atmosphere, that raucous atmosphere.

Definitely the ropes are being brought in on us a lot out there on the golf course, trying to give the fans and the people a better experience, a more up close and personal experience. And with that comes more distraction, and I think it's something we probably have to learn to deal with. If you want to play for all the money we are playing for, you have to find ways in this economy to also give more and more to the fans and the sponsors, and I think that's what's happening. That's what's giving right now. But like the Ryder Cup, I think it is dangerous ground if it goes too far. I think where golf is so healthy is it's a gentleman's game, for sure. It's important that the players inside the ropes always maintain that. What happens outside the ropes, it's always going to spill over a little bit, people are there to have a good time and it's important we don't react too much to that, otherwise it will start to get dangerous.

Q. You were saying last week that you really are enjoying the game of golf right now. Even when you're playing poorly, do you enjoy it?

JUSTIN ROSE: I'm enjoying the pursuit of improvement for sure. Sometimes when you play poorly, sometimes that gives you an insight into really what needs to be worked on, if you choose to view it the right way. Those are often the times you learn the most. If you are just kind of cruising, and feel my game is in good shape and you're not paying much attention to what's going on because the results are all ticking along; I think sometimes it takes a bad week or a bad shot or a bad round to really realize what needs attention.

So it depends how you view it really. One of my biggest moments in my career was kind of losing the Travelers Championship. I won at the Memorial, had the lead at the Travelers, lost the Travelers. What I feel like I learned on Sunday night, I knew that Monday morning I was a better player, not a worse player, for having just lost a tournament, absolutely, because of the experience I had just been through and I knew I could play better in the future. I knew I was better for it. I think that's how you have to view playing badly sometimes.

Q. If you go back to the summer of Memorial, Travelers, Aronimink came after that; you look at what Snedeker has done this year, Charl Schwartzel, how long can a player reasonably expect that kind of stuff to last?

JUSTIN ROSE: I would say typically, you know, sort of a month is the hot streak. Who knows, you take a week off, two weeks off, you travel somewhere totally different and the conditions are not the same, it can throw things just enough - you can play well but finish 20th. You can just be slightly bumped out of that comfort zone. Also, mentally it's important that sometimes when you head into a stretch like that, you ride it. The first week comes out of the blue and then you play well the second week and you feel comfortable and the third week begins to feel like it's normal and then the fourth week you start to put expectation and pressure upon yourself that that's what you should be doing week after week. I probably think that's how we stop playing well is by starting to expect it and putting pressure on ourselves to do it week in, week out, typically.

Q. The best streak you've ever had, the best run I guess?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think so. When I play well, I seem to play well this little runs, but for sure that was the best run of scoring and golf and getting in the hunt for sure.

Q. Beats '98.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I've had longer streaks, but not necessarily good ones. (Laughter).

MODERATOR NEAL: Justin, thanks for your time, good luck this week.

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