Memory of Seve rings loud for Rose
Justin Rose draws inspiration from the memory of the late Severiano Ballesteros as the practice begins in earnest for The 2012 Ryder Cup
As the memory of Severiano Ballesteros is this week honoured with the Spaniard’s iconic fist-pump silhouette adorning the bags of the European Team, Justin Rose has hailed the continuing influence of the late Ryder Cup legend ahead of The 2012 edition in Chicago.
With Ballesteros’ great friend and protégée José María Olazábal at the helm of the European side for the 39th edition of the biennial clash, Rose says that the influence to be drawn from the way the two Spaniards embraced golf’s greatest team event is palpable.
“It's fantastic that José Maria is the captain, and you know that had Seve been around, I'm sure he would have been a big part of this team, and it's nice that he is still a big part of this team,” said the Englishman.
“There is absolutely an inspiration to be drawn from having Seve’s silhouette on the bag. I think with José Maria’s very close relationship with Seve – and their incredible partnership in The Ryder Cup – there’s a great deal that we can take from that.”
Rose, who this year makes a return to the European Ryder Cup team four years after his debut at Valhalla in 2008, also revealed Ballesteros had offered him words of encouragement after initially finding it difficult to adapt to life as a professional, missing 21 consecutive cuts in a row.
“I did get to know Seve well,” Rose said. “He was one of the few guys, I would say, when I was struggling on Tour when I first turned pro, to put his arm around me in a sense, more metaphorically, but just to give me some words of encouragement.
“Seve was definitely a special character and I was fortunate enough to get to know him fairly well. One of my favourite memories was winning my first tournament on American soil at the Memorial Tournament in 2010, and Seve was the guy being honoured that year.
“A couple times during that win I had some tough short game shots and Seve sprang to mind and I would try to picture how Seve would have tried to play the shot. He was definitely with me that week and I managed to get a couple of them up and down.
“One of my greatest keepsakes now is the book from the Memorial that Jack [Nicklaus – founder of the Memorial Tournament] had signed to me. I relayed the story to Seve about how I had thought of him during the win and he wrote back and also signed the book. That's something that I will cherish forever.”
Rose comes into his second Ryder Cup appearance in perhaps the form of his life, having accumulated seven top ten finishes on The European Tour and eight top tens on the US PGA Tour in 2012, including a first World Golf Championships victory at March’s WGC-Cadilliac Championship, a tied eighth finish at the Masters Tournament, and a Major Championship career-best tied third at last month’s US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
Fresh from finishing second at the Tour Championship last week in Atlanta, the 32 year old is ready and raring to go at Medinah.
“I’m very excited to be here now,” Rose said. “I was trying to hold back that excitement for a number of weeks just because we've been playing so much golf recently. But you just get on the grounds here this morning and you realise what it's all about, you definitely once again appreciate how big a tournament this is.”
Rose is also excited to potentially renew his partnership with fellow Englishman Ian Poulter, after the pair combined to good effect in Louisville at the 2008 match to claim two points from their three ties together, and he said there wasn’t much he didn’t know about his close friend.
“I had seen the good, the bad and the ugly long before ,” Rose joked. “You know, not really. The great thing about Ian is that he does remain himself no matter what the occasion, no matter who he's with, and that's what I love about him.
“We roomed together on the Challenge Tour where neither of us had achieved anything in the game, and you know, for the most part, he was the same fun loving, confident person he is today. Obviously The Ryder Cup just really gets the juices flowing and brings out the best in him.
“I think we complement each other well from that perspective, and who knows what's going to happen this week, but I can just be myself, which is a little bit more on a level and he can be the excitable one, and it works quite well.”
For professional golfers, sportsmen who play in a traditionally individualistic game, the team aspect of The Ryder Cup is often what makes the competition so unique, so special, and Rose admits the contest holds an almost fantastical status in his eyes.
“Just to be an athlete or a professional sportsman competing in that sort of arena is what dreams are made of,” he said. “I attended The Ryder Cup when I was a nine year old boy at The Belfry and looked up to these guys like they were Gods. It's a bit surreal now to be following in their footsteps.”