Justin Rose is relishing the opportunity to compete against three of the players aiming to reel him in at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking in this week’s Saudi International powered by SBIA.
“Any time you have the opportunity to play against the best players in the world, it brings added inspiration and for me that’s a big goal this week. They have assembled a great field down here which is exciting for all of us to compete and go head-to-head against each other.”
The World Number One won the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday to underline his position as the game’s most in-form player, and after sealing his tenth US PGA Tour title he made the trip to Saudi Arabia where he is joined by American trio Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.
“I was told 2002 was the last time I won in January,” said Rose. “So it’s definitely a dream start to the season. I’ve had a lot of change in the off-season: new clubs, clothes. So it is nice to kind of get all of that off to a great start and I can really build some confidence on that going forward now.
“I can also really tailor my schedule to exactly how I want it to try and peak at the right times and to also freshen up. I played a lot of golf at the end of last year, and my goal was to always play this and take a few weeks off.
“Those few weeks off I can take almost with a good conscience, knowing that I’m not way behind in points. So, it’s a perfect start to the season for me.”
Rose, Johnson and Koepka have all held the position of world number one over the past 12 months, but Rose is now looking to put further distance between himself and the pack, building on his impressive record on the European Tour following six top ten finishes in his last seven events, including a Rolex Series victory in the Turkish Airlines Open.
“I think the battle for number one is definitely good for golf,” said Johnson. “It’s been a battle to be at the top for a while now. Especially once Tiger stopped being number one for so long, it’s kind of a battle since. There are so many great players and especially if you look at the top 15 guys in the world, you’ve got to bring your game every single week if you want to stay at number one. At any point, the guys that can win pass you.
“It’s very important to come prepared every week, no matter where you’re playing, what tournament it is, and compete. It’s definitely going to be a good year, and you know, I’m definitely looking to challenge Rosey for the top spot.
“I made a commitment to come here, and I think it was last year in Abu Dhabi speaking with the guys who are making this golf tournament happen. It’s going be in an historic event and being the first year, to have such a great field, it’s pretty incredible what they have done and the way they have put this tournament on.”
Reigning Masters Champion Patrick Reed is also in the field for the inaugural event at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
“It is the first year that it’s played here in Saudi and to have as many guys that have flown over, to have four of the top five players in the world, nine Ryder Cup players, and so many former and current world number one players, it just speaks volumes for the event and how the guys felt like it was going to be run when they came over. It speaks volumes about how strong the European Tour is getting, and to get all these guys coming over and playing, it means a lot.
“Ever since I’ve been here, the people have been great. The golf course is in perfect shape. I played the course for the first time for the full 18 and for the first ten, 11 holes, I felt like, all right, this golf course is very gettable because the winds were down. When that wind starts picking up, it’s a completely different golf course.”