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My First Open

Justin Rose


My First Open

Justin Rose at the 1998 Open Championship
We’ve seen some remarkable debuts down the years at The Open, but few can match Justin Rose’s bow.

Major champion, Olympic gold medallist and time spent at world number one; for Rose, though, it all began with the famous culmination of his inaugural Open.

A shot that immediately went down in history as one of the great moments in a Championship steeped in amateur pedigree, Rose strolled down the 18th of The 127th Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998 having already announced himself as a star, unaware, however, of what was to come.

In a spot of bother after finding rough just short of the green-side bunker on the iconic par four, Rose lofted a chip high into the Merseyside sky, to cries from the crowd: ‘Get in,' they bayed.

And his ball duly obliged, destined for the cup from the moment it left his club, its arrival greeted by a raucous eruption as the youngster flung his arms skyward, scarcely able to process what had just happened.

And even 21 years later, it seems that it still hasn’t quite sunk in.

“I’ve never experienced a bigger buzz than that moment on the 18th green, when that pitch shot went in,” Rose said of the moment.

“I’ve had as satisfying moments on the golf course, but never quite that sort of buzz.

“I went completely numb when that ball went in. It was a pretty special ending; you couldn't have written it any more dramatically.

“I’ve never experienced a bigger buzz than that moment” Justin Rose

“I haven't watched the video for a good few years but in the past when I hadn't been playing well, it was good to put it on and I always cranked the volume up to maximum when we get to the last shot. There's a classic 'get in the hole' shout when I make contact on my third shot.”

The realisation of a life-long dream that he could never have imagined would transpire in such a way, Rose was fully aware of the gravitas of the occasion.

Taking up the game seriously at the age of five at Tylney Park in Hampshire, Rose’s drive for The Open began when he first made the handicap for qualification at 14.

After three years of plugging away, the youngster made good on his ambition, and headed up to Royal Birkdale for the culmination of a 12-year-journey.

“The Open Championship has been a dream of mine ever since I was a very young kid,” he continued.

“I’ve holed the winning putt thousands of times on a putting green. As soon as my handicap was low enough to enter Open qualifying I did it.

“I’ve definitely created a storyline with The Open from a young age.”

For Rose it was a weekend that truly encapsulates the joie de vivre that accompanies the rise of a young amateur.

Just 17 years old, his achievements in Southport exceeded anything he could’ve imagined; after 12 holes, the youngster found himself, inexplicably, atop of the leaderboard, and the Brit carried his form all the way through to Sunday including a remarkable four-under-par 66 in his second round.

It was a performance that turned plenty of heads, as Rose surfed a wave of adrenaline all the way to a stunning fifth-place finish, and with it, the famous Silver Medal awarded to best amateur.

“I just had this feeling of freedom with my game and I’ve been trying to find that ever since,” he said.

“The freedom I had that particular week, the confidence I had in my short game, the innocence in which I played the game is still a model.

“When I play my best golf I’m always trying to get rid of thoughts rather than add thoughts, and when I look at my performance when I was 17, it was very much free.

“Because of the atmosphere of the crowd I felt like I was going to win The Open, which is such a crazy thought, but it felt like even if I hit a bad shot my short game would get me out of trouble; I’d make a putt.

“I remember John Huston – who I played with in the final round – saying that he wanted to be my agent!

“Fred Couples came up to watch me hit a couple of shots on the range and said: ‘Ah, so that’s how you do it!’”

In the intervening years, Rose’s relationship with The Open has been a rollercoaster, but in the 2018 Championship he almost added the Claret Jug to his silver medal.

Having needed a birdie at the 18th on Friday just to make the cut, Rose carded a record-low seven-under-par 64 at Carnoustie for his third round and sought to reel in the leading pack on Sunday.

Just like back in 1998, Rose birdied the 18th on the final day, but just like 1998, he finished two shots off the lead, enough to see him tied second behind Champion Golfer of the Year Francesco Molinari.

And with the memories of that special moment back at Royal Birkdale two decades ago, Rose knows that only one thing can top that feeling.

“I’ve always thought about what I achieved in ‘98 as being the next best thing to winning The Open,” he mused. “For me to experience something bigger, I need to go on and win this golf tournament.”