Relaxed Rose ready for Ryder Cup return
Four years after his first and only previous appearance at The Ryder Cup, red-hot Justin Rose is relaxed and ready to take up arms once more when he heads to Medinah Country Club to face the Americans next week.
And for the Englishman the timing could not be better, as he will travel to Chicago for team golf’s most revered battle in arguably the form of his life following a season brim-full of impressive performances.
Indeed, Rose’s excellent form in 2012 has already seen him amass close to €2.5m, making his season thus far rank second only in his professional career to the 2007 campaign, when the 32 year old won twice en route to capturing the Harry Vardon Trophy as The European Tour’s top player.
During the crucial mid-to-late portions of The Ryder Cup qualification race, Rose picked up seven top ten finishes in ten appearances on The European Tour since the turn of the year, including a maiden World Golf Championships victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March.
Since then, further notable performances followed at some of golf’s grandest events, including a tied eighth place at the Masters Tournament and a tied second at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, finishes that did no harm in bolstering Rose’s Ryder Cup points coffers.
And Rose has looked in equally fine fettle in more recent times, following up a tied fifth finish at August’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron with a tied third finish at the following week’s US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island– his best-ever in a Major Championship.
While Rose’s brilliance this year has served in propelling him up to ninth place in the Official World Golf Ranking and second on The Race Dubai – just shy of US PGA Champion Rory McIlroy – there’s no question what the crowning glory of an already-glorious season will be – a Ryder Cup return and his re-emergence into the European Team fold after a 48 month hiatus – and he could not be more thrilled.
“It’s great to be back in the team and it was great to see José Maria out at the PGA at Kiawah when he got a lot of the guys on the team together and really started the build-up to the match,” said Rose.
“We are getting very close now and it is really the time to start getting everyone together and focussing on what we have to do as a team.
“It’s very much on our minds now and a lot of the guys are really starting to talk about it and get excited about it. That’s actually on both sides: we play a lot with the US guys and they are in really good shape.
“They have a very strong team this year and they are all in good form but I am sure our team will peak at the right time.”
In 2010, Rose and compatriot Paul Casey were the unlucky ones to narrowly miss out on wild card picks for Colin Montgomerie’s side at The Celtic Manor Resort, despite the latter being World Number Nine at the time and the former having won twice on the US PGA Tour in the months preceding the biennial contest.
But that is how fine the line between Ryder Cup qualification and disappointment can prove to be, as two years ago events in the final two tournaments of the points race conspired against Rose and his fellow countryman.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson claimed an automatic berth with victory at the Czech Open, while the following week Italian rookie Edoardo Molinari forced Captain Montgomerie’s hand with a sensational last-ditch triumph in the final qualifying event at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
So having experienced such recent heart-break, the five-time European Tour Champion was thankful his fine form allowed him to secure a spot on the team well in advance of the qualification period’s climax.
“It was important to me to qualify by right this year,” Rose reflected. “I didn’t want to be relying on a pick this time around so to have played so well to guarantee has been a really big thing for me.
“I have been able to relax and enjoy my golf without the added pressure of The Ryder Cup qualification so it has been great to get it done early and focus on getting my game just right.”
Rose was a sensation in his previous Ryder Cup appearance at Valhalla in 2008 under the stewardship of Nick Faldo, claiming three wins from four matches in the last of the contests to be held on American soil.
His partnership with compatriot, friend and match play aficionado Ian Poulter could be one set for a reprisal in Illinois, after the pair seized victory in two of their three ties together four years ago, with a third point coming for Rose in an impressive 3&2 singles victory over four-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson.
Despite Rose’s heroics in Kentucky – when he was second only to Poulter in terms of total points scored for the European Team – the Americans prevailed 16.5-11.5 to claim their first Ryder Cup victory in nine years, and the Hampshire-raised man said he will draw a great amount from those memories.
“I always tell people that when I played in America at The 2008 Ryder I finished on the losing team yet had one of the best weeks of my life!” Rose laughed. “I can only imagine what it would feel like to be on a winning team – that is one of the really big goals in my career and hopefully we can do that this year.
“I suppose you could say that Valhalla was a personal triumph but that doesn’t count for much because at the end of the day if the team doesn’t win then you have nothing to show for it. But to have played so well under that kind of pressure will hopefully hold me in good stead for Medinah.”