Sparkling weekend renews Rose's love affair with The Open
When Justin Rose was standing on the 18th tee on Friday afternoon, one shot outside the cut line, it simply looked set to be his latest in a long line of disappointing Open performances.
Fast forward 48 hours and Rose had remarkably finished in a tie for second at Carnoustie and claims his love for The Open has been renewed, with a future lifting of the Claret Jug most definitely in his sights.
It started when he birdied 18 on Friday, continued with a magnificent third round 64 and culminated with an equally impressive 69 on Sunday, as the rest of the field almost dropped shots with alacrity in the windy conditions.
That was good enough for the 37-year-old to end on six-under, level with Rory McIlroy, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele – two shots behind 2018 Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari.
For a man with Rose’s outstanding record – 2013 US Open champion, 2016 Olympic gold medallist and a 22-time professional tournament winner – just one top ten at The Open since bursting on the scene with a tied-fourth and the Silver Medal back in 1998 is a meagre return.
But that has all changed now in the Englishman’s mind and he is targeting stepping into Molinari’s shoes.
“How I played at the weekend just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament,” said Rose. “It proves that I can win The Open. When I'm in the hunt, I enjoy it and I play my best golf.
“I don't back away, I really enjoy it and it was great to get the crowd behind me. I hadn't felt the energy of the crowd for a while in the Open.
“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed my love of The Open.”
The 18th at Carnoustie was Rose’s friend all week – he birdied it in every round, including that all-important three on Friday just to make the weekend. So is it his favourite hole on The Open rota?
“After birdies on all four days, it has to be right up there for me now,” admitted Rose. “I birdied it in different ways, too.
“On Sunday, it wasn't really playing that beast of a hole that it can. On Saturday, I hit driver, 5 iron, which is more the Carnoustie 18th hole that we know. I feel like I birdied it all ways, which makes it special.”
McIlroy’s Open record is better than Rose’s – he was the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year after all – but both men’s standards mean that anything other than walking away as a winner adds a tinge of disappointment to any week.
The Northern Irishman continually looked primed to strike on Sunday but three bogeys – on the 2nd, 5th and 12th – ultimately scuppered him despite birdies on 9 and 11 and a spectacular eagle on 14 which briefly put him in a six-way tie for the lead.
It was ultimately one of the most dramatic Opens in memory, with momentum swinging wildly all afternoon and the return of 14-time major winner Tiger Woods into contention adding an unmatchable buzz around Carnoustie.
And McIlroy admitted he enjoyed being part of the drama and is relishing the prospect of next year’s ‘home’ Open at Royal Portrush in Antrim.
“It was great, just to be a part of it and hear the roars,” said McIlroy. “Tiger being back in the mix and there was a lot of big names up there. It was nice to be a part of it.
“For a while, I thought Tiger was going to win. My mindset was go and spoil the party here. It was cool, it was really cool.
“I have no regrets. I played the way I wanted to play this week. It gives me a lot of encouragement going into the final major of the year.
“I can't wait for Royal Portrush now. It would have been nice to go in there with a Claret Jug but it's my fourth top-five in a row at this tournament, so I play it well.
“I have done for the last few years now and I'm excited to play an Open at Portrush. That will be unbelievable.”
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