GAINESVILLE, United States: After being a last-day British Open contender and the lowest-scoring runner-up in Masters history, Justin Rose is working toward another major title opportunity in two weeks at the PGA Championship.
The Englishman tees off on Thursday (Friday in Manila) on his 35th birthday as defending champion at the US PGA Quicken Loans National, but on a different course as the Tiger Woods-hosted event moves from Congressional Country Club to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.
“I feel like you’re half defending champion,” Rose said. “Defending doesn’t mean much this week when you are playing a new course. It’s a new test. I need to learn it. I certainly don’t put any pressure on myself this week.”
Seventh-ranked Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, won at New Orleans in April to give himself at least one US PGA victory for a sixth consecutive year, but only after sharing second with Phil Mickelson at the Masters, where their 14-under 274 was the lowest runner-up total ever at Augusta National.
“A slow start to the year and found some form. Augusta turned it around,” Rose said. “It was really my first decent performance and gave me a lot of confidence really to go and compete in a major off the back of not a lot of confidence and the fact I felt so comfortable down the stretch there at Augusta taught me a lot about myself. Kept that confidence growing and built on it.”
Rose settled for a share of sixth at St Andrews but that run boosted his confidence as well with the PGA Championship just two weeks away at Whistling Straits.
“Had an outside chance there. Couldn’t get hot on Sunday,” Rose said. “But feeling good about things.”
“A great year on the PGA Tour is built around five or six good weeks. You’ve got to find your rhythm and flow and you never really know when it’s going to happen, You have to keep your confidence up all year long and wait for your run.”
Rose won the National in 2010 and 2014, matching Woods as the only two-time winner in the history of the $6.7 million (6 million euro) tournament.
“It’s going to be important for me to conserve energy for the week,” Rose said. “We’re expecting a tough course. Good ball-striking test this week.”
Rose is Europe’s top healthy player with world number one Rory McIlroy out next week with a left ankle injury and questionable for the PGA Championship.
“He’s doing OK. He’s working on it and doing all the right things, doing his best to be back as quick as possible,” Rose said of McIlroy. “To miss the season’s final major would make the injury an even bigger blow to him. I’m sure he’s doing everything he can to be back for the PGA.”
In the meantime, 22-year-old American Jordan Spieth won the Masters and US Open and lost by only a stroke at St. Andrews. A victory next week would make him number one.
“It’s phenomenal what Jordan has been able to do,” Rose said. “It’s very impressive. To come within one shot of his third straight major, as good as we’ve seen for a long, long time from any player. It’s pretty amazing.”
Rio offer chance for gold
Rose looks forward to the return of Olympic golf in a year’s time at Rio and the chance at a gold medal.
“It’s going to be an exciting event, a great opportunity to be part of something huge, the first golfer in a long time to win a gold medal,” said Rose.
“You put it on its own, as a special achievement, something incredible. A gold medal kind of separates itself from everything… In 100 years’ time that might be the most sought after achievement in golf.”