Pebble Beach, CA. It’s hard to believe but six years have past since Justin Rose claimed his first — and only major championship thus far — at the US Open at storied Merion Golf Club.
Since that victory Rose has clearly ascended to the upper echelon of players and has even gained world number one status for a total of 13 weeks.
But, the measurement of any golfer is the wherewithal to close the deal — securing the win and separating yourself from others equally talented but clearly at a notch below. No one doubts the talent Rose possesses.
However, at 38, Rose is in the prime of his golf career. He’s won 10 times on the PGA Tour and his most recent win came earlier this year at The Farmer’s event at Torrey Pines – which incidentally, hosts the ’21 US Open.
In addition, to his success in America, Rose has won 12 times on the European circuit. He has also been a mainstay for Team Europe at Ryder Cup Matches playing 5 times and securing 14 total points.
In the major championships Rose has played 62 times and his other close calls have featured near successes twice at The Masters and a runner-up position at last year’s Open at Carnoustie.
In the year’s first two majors the bloom was certainly off Rose as he missed the cut at The Masters and finished 29th at the PGA Championship. Over the first two rounds of this year’s US Open at Pebble Beach Rose has played smartly and yielded an exceptional putter — a previous concern at critical moments.
Whenever it might seem he was teetering during the first two round he was able to push through the adversity and maintain his composure. Escaping unscathed with only three bogies thus far. His finish to the first round was especially noteworthy with three consecutive birdies to take the outright lead. More importantly, Rose did this in the company of Tiger Woods, who along with Jordan Spieth were paired together for the first 36 holes.
Rose has one of the most complete games in golf. He possesses abundant length and can play a wide variety of shots when called upon. If there’s been any weakness it’s been a balky putter at times. Being able to make the key putt at the right moment is often the element that matters most in the biggest of events.
When Rose won the US Open at Merion he was the first Englishman to secure the national championship of American golf since Tony Jacklin did similarly in 1970. His gold medal victory in the 2016 Summer Olympics was also a feather in his cap — although a number of key players opted not to compete.
With Rory McIlroy’s quick rise via winning four major championships so quickly between 2011 and 2014, it became an issue in whether Rose could truly re-emerge as Europe’s top player. McIlroy is in good form having won the Canadian Open the week prior and showing plenty of grit after double-bogeying the 14th hole during the 2nd round and then bouncing back quickly with consecutive birdies and sitting just two shots behind Rose and four behind leader Gary Woodland.
Now with 36 holes left to play it will be a major test for Justin to show the promise Merion indicated six years ago. Rose will be paired with Woodland for Saturday’s 3rd round and it will be interesting see if Rose’s past experience and Woodland’s lack thereof really comes to the forefront. Wood;and’s 2nd round was flawless — becoming just the 3rd golfer to score a 65 at Pebble Beach during a US Open. Want to know who the other two are? Woods did so when winning in overpowering fashion in 2000 and Rose did likewise in Thursday’s first round.
For a brief time Rose reclaimed the number one position in the world rankings but a win at Pebble Beach re-establishes him solidly in the elite world foursome with the likes of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and McIlroy. Right now, Rose occupies the 4th slot. The youth brigade is pushing hard for recognition and while Rose will remain competitive the wherewithal to add to his major championship total needs to be seized upon this week.
Pebble Beach played soft for the first 36 holes and scoring is indeed doable but Rose himself admitted when speaking to the assembled media that Pebble “has plenty of teeth” and being in the right position is central to have the correct angle into the hole locations. To his credit Rose has always shown the capacity to grind a score out even when not striking the ball at a high level. He admitted as much in saying that having a “hanging around mentality” is often the key element to push beyond the barriers that stymie others.
A second US Open triumph clearly takes Rose out of the category of those who have won just one major. When a golfer earns his second — especially when both are US Open victories — one’s standing jumps up considerably.
The final 36 holes will say plenty about Justin and whether his position in the world order of the game’s finest players deserves notice and respect. The US Open win at Merion clearly showed what Rose can do. A win at Pebble Beach would elevate him to a very special high level as a multiple winner of America’s national championship.
At his Friday post round press conference Rose was wise not to get too far ahead of himself when asked what a second US Open win would mean — especially coming at Pebble Beach — which Rose acknowledged — along with The Old Course at St. Andrews are at the top of the list for iconic venues. Justin knows full well that 36 holes remain to be played. But, make no mistake about it — Rose is determined to show he still remains in the conversation as an elite player of the highest caliber.
The stakes this weekend are indeed high on whether this Rose will once again bloom in the biggest of moments.