How Justin Rose would love to celebrate his second major success at Troon this week. The Englishman won the US Open at Merion 2013 but victory in South Ayrshire would be the pinnacle of his career.
And after a plucky performance last time round at St Andrews, he has plenty to build on...
Q. Last year, you tied sixth in The Open at St. Andrews. I think that was your best finish since the hugely memorable year back in 1998 at Birkdale. That must give you some real confidence coming into this week at Royal Troon?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. Last year I would say it was a week where I had an opportunity to do well and put myself in position going into the final round that a great round of golf could have led me to the Claret Jug. I started the round under par, which was the same as Marc Leishman and Zach Johnson. We know those two guys were in the playoffs. That was an outside look at it.
There haven't been many, I would say in the last few years, but obviously my Open Championship form is something I've definitely been conscious about, and really doing my best to turn around, and I think last year was obviously a nice step in the right direction.
Q. I'm sure, and feeling confident coming into this week here again at Troon?
JUSTIN ROSE: Absolutely. It's been a slow summer for me. Came off injury into the U.S. Open, and then Akron last week, just again, trying to find some form, really, I would say off the back of that. And anytime you have a bit of an injury thing, you're not able to practise quite as much, but I feel like I'm in a much better spot this week. I'm beginning -- I'm at the point where I'm focusing on my performance rather than just trying to get fit. So I feel like it's about the right time for me to start turning into a couple good results and I'm excited about it.
The only thing that that little bit of time off does give you is maybe a slightly fresher approach than some of the guys at this time of the year with the Open and PGA and Olympics and playoffs and all sorts of stuff coming up. I feel quite hungry and ready to go. So hopefully it will start this week.
Q. Justin, you mentioned before last year you were conscious of your Open record not being as good as you'd like. Was there anything you could put your finger on to why that was and why it hadn't quite happened for you?
JUSTIN ROSE: It's easy to blame a bad draw once in a while. That's what I put my finger on. But not really. I've had a few outside chances where I've felt like I've actually played much better than the result has turned out. So I've never been overly concerned by it. But obviously it's a tournament that I'd dearly love to win. So when you're not getting that many good opportunities, yes, you sometimes question a couple of things.
I would say maybe I've just altered my preparation slightly. The Open comes at a busy time of year. I played the Scottish Open prior to. I haven't played it this year. There's been a few changeups just in terms of trying to figure out what might be a great opportunity for me to do well this week. This week has been slightly different once again. Spent all this week up here at Troon. I felt that if I went back home, it's very easy to get caught up in seeing people and getting distracted and not spending as much time on your game as you need to with the week into a major. So I thought coming straight to Troon with a little less distraction was going to be a good plan for me and set me up well for the week.
So, yeah, just trying to find each time, each time the Open comes around, just really think about what's going to be the best way for me to perform.
Q. You mentioned the Olympics and what was coming up for you. Can you explain why you and Danny have decided to go when so many others have decided not to?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I've just been excited. I can't really explain from my point of view. I'm excited about it, treating it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's sort of been my tag line, I suppose. I hope that I'll be able to play in Tokyo. We hope that golf will be in Tokyo, but for the most part, I think that at this stage of my career it's something that comes around once every four years. I understand that it's been tough scheduling, and I understand all of that side of things, but when it's once every four years, I think it's something you can certainly make an exception for, and that's been my attitude towards it. Just being a part of Team GB, in a sense you feel like you're part of something bigger than just your individual sport as well.
So it's going to be a fun occasion, and I've never been to an Olympic games in any capacity. To go, obviously, as an athlete is a huge honour. But as part of the whole experience, I want to take in the games as a whole. So it's something that me and my family have been very excited about. Kate is a former gymnast. Although she's a sports acro gymnast, which is never Olympic recognized, although one day she hopes it would be. The Olympics was always a big deal in her field growing up, so we've been excited about it.
Q. Is it a danger that you can start obsessing about the Open and the majors perhaps more than other tournaments?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think there's a danger, for sure. I think though that ultimately -- for me personally the majors are really what's going to move the needle in my career. If I win one more or two more or three more, that's going to be what defines my career. Do I single-handedly focus on the majors at the beginning of the year? Probably, but I also have other goals as well: To be a more, I would say, prolific winner; to be able to have a season where I win more than once or twice. That's a big goal of mine. But outside of that it is focusing on the major championships because I believe that's where history is at, and that's what's going to define you as a player.
So I always see the major championships as two-week spells, a week of preparation where you're really getting into it. That paid dividends for me at Merion. I feel like that separated me from a lot of the other guys that particular week. And that gave me the opportunity to win. So I think they are worth targeting and going after. It's only a danger if you can't handle that mentality and the pressure of what that represents.
Q. Golf has been getting a lot of stick because of guys pulling out of the Olympics. Do you think that's fair? What are your thoughts on the bad publicity for golf as a sport?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I mean the bad publicity is unfortunate, obviously. I think the Zika risk is going to be one of those things that we look back at and think it's a non-event hopefully. You're going to get down there and you're probably not going to see a mosquito in sight. But at the same time, no one can stand there and categorically tell you you're going to be okay, and that's the problem. Obviously with golf being an outdoor sport played around the water out there, 20, 30 miles out from the city, five, six hours out on the golf course, seven days a week, you are probably at a higher risk than most other athletes in most other sports who are in much more of a contained environment. So there is that to weigh up and factor in in the decision-making process.
Yeah, just, obviously I would say the golf is skipping Rio rather than skipping the Olympics. That's the way I'd like to frame it this particular time around. I just think it's unfortunate.
Q. You've shown great fortitude in your career in facing up to difficulties and so on. Is there anything you could say to us for Rory as he is facing some of the difficulties he's facing at the moment. He clearly isn't playing as well as he would like.
JUSTIN ROSE: I think we're being too hard. There is a lot of competition out there. There are great players, Jason, Rory, Jordan, who else? A bunch of others. There are loads of good players now. Dustin Johnson, obviously with recent form. And everyone has their run. Dustin's had a couple of weeks in a row, Adam Scott had a couple of weeks in a row. Jordan's had a couple of good looks this year, but you could argue he hasn't been as consistent as last year.
But the metric of how we judge these players can be harsh at times, and I think Rory is a feel player in the sense that you can never count him out. If you start to criticize him at this point in the season, you could definitely end up with egg on your face, because he could go on a run that he could easily win three, four, five of the next six, seven events. So I just think he's not a player that you should worry about, really. He's talented and he'll be fine.
As a player, that question is from left field because I don't worry about him. I don't look at his form and say oh, what's going on with Rory? He popped off a win in Ireland, which was a tournament that meant so much to him and was obviously a big, big victory for him. So he's got it when he wants it, and that's all you need to see, really. So I'm not seeing a huge drop-off in form. He's just not at his best very, very best right now, but you can't be at your best all the time.So the question kind of threw me because I didn't think there was an issue, necessarily.
Q. Are you delighted to see a new generation following your footsteps with Tyrrell Hatton, and Paul Dunne, and these young British players who look like they can challenge the world?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's exciting. Danny Willett is the obvious one. He's been knocking on the door for a while. He's had that confidence about him. With Danny it took maybe four or five years to break through to the highest level. You could see what was happening with him in Europe. Last year contending with Rory at the Race to Dubai, and again winning early this season and winning his first major at the Masters is fantastic. It's great to see players have that progression. There are a bunch of them in the early stages of doing the same thing.
So, yeah, obviously Tyrrell's playing well, Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood, another great player who has been around a little bit of time now, but looks like he's heading into that phase of his career where he's beginning to put the experience into good effect and winning big events like the PGA. The Ryder Cup from that point of view looks strong. Matt Fitzpatrick as well is a wonderful talent.
Yeah, it's good to see. All of those players are capable of great things and all capable of winning a major championship at some point. Yeah, it's good. It's nice to see that there seems to be that flow of talent coming through.
Q. Justin, regarding Rio, do you think there's probably been a bit of an overreaction from the top male golfers considering so many women are still keen to go there and play in the Olympics?
JUSTIN ROSE: If you were to compare it, then you'd say yes. If you just flat out are comparing one versus the other, because the circumstances are the same. But the only thing that potentially is the case and can be quite difficult for the ladies is sometimes -- if you're looking purely from a family planning point of view, unfortunately some of the ladies have to put that on hold while they're at the peak of their career, so that's the only correlation I could potentially or the only argument I have is maybe that's not on the cards in the very near future for some of the ladies playing. But who am I? I'm certainly not --
Q. Aside from that?
JUSTIN ROSE: That's the only theory I could come up with. But obviously I'm trying to protect the guys and trying to understand their point of view and their decision. So to not sort of add to the negative PR on the game, because I think we all need to protect that.