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English golf holds the aces

There has never been a time like the present for success by English golfers on the PGA Tour in the US. Never, ever. Well, not since Ted Ray from South Herts, and Jim Barnes, a Cornishman, won successive US Opens in 1920 and 1921.

Take two recent events in successive weeks in Florida. First, Justin Rose came from three strokes behind after 54 holes to win the Cadillac Championship, a World Golf Championship event. It was the fourth victory on the PGA Tour by Rose, 31.

One week later, Luke Donald, 34, made up three strokes in the final round to get into a playoff for the Transitions Championship – and won that at the first extra hole, his fifth victory on the PGA Tour.

Best of British: When it comes to manners and etiquette, Rose and Donald are model pros – a credit to the gameDonald, who had been No. 1 in the world for 39 weeks until February 2012, when Rory McIlroy forced him down to No. 2 for two weeks, is playing remarkable golf. Last year he won the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic, the first man to do that. For that matter, Rose, who was ranked eighth in the world on March 24, is also playing wonderfully. There is no other major sport at which Englishmen are as good as Donald and Rose.

If you had been around the South of England and paying attention to junior golf 20 years ago, you would certainly have heard of Donald, who was a member of Hazlemere golf club from the age of nine until he joined Beaconsfield, aged 13. You would have heard less about Rose who was growing up in Fleet, in Hampshire, a few miles to the south. There were lots of jokes about a blooming rose, though, and quite a few when Donald was paired with Robert Duck, now Sandy Lyle’s manager, in amateur events.

Donald has become good at winning when he really wants to: to capture the US money list last autumn he had to win or come second in a tournament in Florida (again). Five strokes behind the leaders after 54 holes and still trailing after 63, he then birdied six successive holes to take the tournament and the money list. Nor is Donald devastating only when he plays for himself. In 19 matches in the Walker and Ryder Cups, he has lost only three. Every Walker and Ryder Cup team he has been on has won.

Rose, who was born in South Africa, first came to notice as a gawky 15-year-old when he nearly won the McEvoy Trophy. Soon after came Walker Cup honours and that fourth place in the 1998 Open while still an amateur, aged 17. Turning pro the day after that Open, he endured the run of 17 successive missed cuts before his professional career began to take shape. He won the European Order of Merit in 2007 and won three points out of four in the 2008 Ryder Cup, his only appearance so far. In 2010 he won two tournaments in the US within a month.

You knew Rose was going to be something special by his demeanour when he was missing all those cuts. Week after week he would come out of the scorer's tent and face the press, polite, probably chastened, yet never rude or downcast. Truly it can be said of him that you saw the real Justin Rose in adversity.

Donald and Rose went to state schools in England. Both had devoted mothers who (almost) share the same name. Ann Donald was once described as being very good at making sure that Luke was brought up to be like his three siblings. Annie Rose impresses you with her caring nature the moment you meet her.

Both men had strong fathers who, in conjunction with their wives, brought off the difficult trick of bringing up gifted children without creating jealousy among the other siblings. Ken Rose plotted and oversaw Justin's career until his death from leukaemia in 2002. Though criticised for being too ever-present in the early days of Justin’s career, he seems to have been proved right by the way Justin has turned out.

Colin Donald, who died last autumn, knew little about golf. For him it was as important that Luke was a rounded, decent person as it was that he was a good golfer. “Most golf fathers you see are dressed in golf gear swinging a club,” Paul Casey, a contemporary of Luke Donald’s, said. “You see way too much of the hands-on approach. I never saw Luke’s dad out there with a club. I don’t know if he played.”

When a Welsh person says someone is “tidy” they do not mean it in the neat sense. They mean it as a compliment, as in good or even exceptional. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel are held up to be outstanding men, a credit to their parents and to South Africa, their countries. No less so are Donald and Rose, two "tidy" men.

They are a credit to the game.

May 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 






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