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AT&T NATIONAL MEDIA CONFERENCE
June 6, 2011
GREG McLAUGHLIN: Just wanted to welcome everyone to our media call for the AT&T National. Certainly thank all the members of the media for being with us today. Certainly want to thank our defending champion, Justin Rose, also for joining us.
We're very pleased to be returning again to Philadelphia and Aronimink Golf Club. Certainly a wonderful course. We had a fantastic year last year in Philadelphia. It's a tremendous amount of community support and an event that's very important to us.
So certainly any information regarding the AT&T National easily can be found at attnational.org. As I said, Justin, joining us today, as you recall, Justin won the Memorial last year and four weeks later won the AT&T National; finished his year fifth from the FedExCup, had a tremendous year.
This year, three top 10s, including tied for third at Bay Hill. So with that I'd love to ask Justin to make a few remarks regarding Aronimink and defending last year and we'll open up for questions.
JUSTIN ROSE: Greg, you put on a fantastic tournament. Anytime as a player you get to come to a classic golf course like Aronimink is just a treat. I really enjoyed the challenge that the course gave us. And obviously the week was fantastic for me.
I was obviously in a rich vein of fame, like you say, coming off the back of The Memorial. And playing quite well at the Travelers Championship. And to keep it going at Aronimink was fantastic, and to get the second victory so soon after the first was a thrill.
GREG McLAUGHLIN: With that, we'll go to questions.
Q. Just wanted to ask you, if you look back at your summer last year, you mentioned winning Memorial and AT&T and nearly Travelers. You must have felt like you couldn't lose back then. You've had stretches that haven't been so good either. Have you ever sat back and tried to figure out what exactly it is that either keeps you from playing as great as you did last summer or makes you play rather ordinary? Is it strictly mechanics, strictly golf stuff or is it head stuff or what?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think there's two things that you need to keep the pilot light lit on all year. One's confidence and two is motivation. And I think they both sound terribly obvious.
But in the real world of playing professional golf, 30 times a year, 30 tournaments a year, you know, getting the balance between confidence and motivation correct I think is the challenge.
And certainly it's an interesting thing. So many facets of the game go into playing well. And sometimes for me really the one that keeps me playing ordinary can be the putting, and that's what's sort of just the missing link right now.
But I think the game seems easy when the putt's dropping, you know what I mean? And that's where the confidence really starts to build.
Q. Along those lines, Justin, this came up about a month or so ago at Quail Hollow when someone was asked if they would like to have a season you had, which you had two wins at two big tournaments on big courses, or a year like Matt Kuchar in which he was top 10ing it just about every week and really only had one shot at winning. Which is a better year?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think the better golfer is the guy who is consistently knocking at the door of the guy who is playing consistent golf week in, week out.
When I looked at my year, yes, it was a fantastic year, and there's no better and greater feeling than winning, and ultimately at the end of your career, the very end of your career, it does boil down to how many wins did you have.
And, therefore, if also your wins translate into winning on good golf courses, it's like a little gold star next to your name. But I think right now I came into this year thinking: Okay, last year was a great year but how can I be a little bit more consistent? How could I do what Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald are doing. So as a player that's kind of the level that I aspire to.
So to answer your question, I mean, I think that Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald, for example, throwing them in the same mold here, they're a lot closer to winning week in, week out than I am even though I pulled of two great wins last year.
Also saying that, though, until the last couple of weeks, the start to my season was exactly that: I was beginning to play really, really consistently and consistently well. And I think I sort of had -- I don't know the numbers -- but eight or nine out of 10 top 25 finishes to start the season and amassed a pretty decent amount of money pretty early in the season without feeling like I really had clicked into gear.
So I felt like there's been a lot of positives this year as well. And a lot of more, like I said, the last couple of weeks have gone awry a little bit but until this point I had really sort of had a much more consistent season.
And the other thing I was looking at was last year I had finished, I missed the cut in two majors and didn't play the other two.
So the other thing I was really looking forward to this year was having much stronger performances in the majors. So there's always something to try and get better at.
Q. Just had a question about the people at Aronimink. They really seem to be pretty candid about wanting to host a major championship. And I was wondering your opinion about the course and do you think it would be a good venue for like, say, a PGA or even a Ryder Cup some day?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I do. I think it will be -- it seems to be a great city. We had a great turnout, great crowd. For me the atmosphere out on the golf course was really fun to be a part of and fun to play in front of.
And I think that's a big part of hosting a major championship or a big event. Not only do you need the golf course, which I think would fit perfectly, but you need the city to be able to support it. And I think it does have that.
You know, the golf course -- like I referred to it earlier -- is a classic golf course. Whenever players get a chance to play on a course like that, it really is a treat. So I'll be all for seeing a big championship go there for sure. AT&T National is obviously a big championship, but like a Ryder Cup or a major would be fantastic.
Q. I wondered what it was specifically about Aronimink that fit your eye and your game?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think it's a golf course that you really had to strategize your way around. It was the kind of golf course that you had to respect. You had to take your chances when they came.
There were certainly some holes you could take advantage, a couple of short par 4s and a couple of par 5s, but for the most part you had to play sort of under the hole.
It was a classic -- the greens are sloping, typically back-to-front, and you had to try to keep the ball under the hole and you had to try to miss in the right spots.
And when you're playing well, those are the kind of courses that really suit you. You know, if you're somewhat off your game, you know, the rough was fairly thick. The fairways are somewhat narrow.
So if you're not quite playing well you're really behind the eight ball. But it's the kind of golf course when you're feeling good with your game and you're thinking correctly, I think it really separates you from the rest of the field.
Q. Obviously the first time you had seen Aronimink, had you normally done well on courses that you had never seen before, or was it just the way you were playing at the time last summer?
JUSTIN ROSE: I don't really know, to be honest with you. I don't know if there's a pattern or not to that. But there's one thing about not having played a golf course before you do come into it with no preconceived ideas.
You go into it, you take what you get. You formulate a strategy based upon how you see it for the very first time. You're not basing it upon the fact that somebody shot 20 under par last year, so you feel like you need to press and force your way around a few of the holes. You just really play it as you see it and you play it as you feel comfortable.
So I think, obviously I was playing very, very well but I feel like I really fought my way around the course possibly better than anybody else that week, too.
Q. Wondering, when you're the defending champ or you've had success at a tournament, how much does that affect, when you go back, the mindset, because obviously you have something to draw upon going back, I'm just wondering how juiced you'll get going back to a place where obviously you figured out last year.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, for sure, I think there's two things: There's one you have the potential downside of the pressure of expectation. But I think more than that you have the excitement and the energy that you can really gain from good memories.
And I just experienced that at the Memorial last week, and I felt very comfortable with the week. I didn't really feel like I teed it up with any huge expectation. Very rarely does a player go back to back or defend. It's something you go into it -- you know in the back of your mind you'd love to do, but you know to get the job done you have to stick to a process, and that process doesn't change whether it's the U.S. Masters or whatever tournament it might be or defending a tournament.
The best way to get the job done is to stay in the moment. So that will be very much my approach to it. But it's really, you know, it's nice to sort of relive the memories again.
When you turn up to the tournament, typically there's one or two more pictures of you around the place. And it's nice to be able to relive what was a great experience.
Q. As the U.S. hope heads to Congressional, which is the former and future home of the AT&T National, just wanted to get your thoughts on Congressional and some of the changes that have been made to the blue course as they prepare for the Open this year?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yes, once again, it's a golf course that I like. It's a golf course I feel suits my eye. I've really enjoyed playing in the AT&T National, and I think the AT&T is just one of those fantastic tournaments.
And to have the option to play on a golf course that's hosted a major championship is always a huge plus when you are looking at your schedule.
So I think some of the experiences I've had around there will help. It's one of the few major courses that I can kind of remember every hole and it's one of the few major championships venues that I've played probably more than in just as major, for example.
So it's a course that, you know when I'm doing my preparations I can start to think what's going to be required. And obviously they have made some changes over the years. They've changed obviously the 10th hole, par 3, they've added that in. 18th hole is going to be obviously a huge test.
I've heard they put the tee back some 30, 40 yards to make it a 500-plus par 4. So I think that you're definitely going to get that opportunity to hit what might be that Ernie Els draw 5-iron into that back left-hand pin placement.
So I think over 18 years, maybe in the AT&T National, I remember hitting as little as 9-iron in there. So they've obviously tried to get some teeth into that hole and create a dramatic finish.
But it's one of those classic golf courses that fairways and greens is going to suit you very, very well around there, which is perfect for a U.S. Open.
Q. You're 30. In this age of golf, are you middle-aged or are you still young?
JUSTIN ROSE: You know, this is the way I look at it: I would say I'm middle-aged. But I would say that I feel like the next 10 years are my prime. If I'm going to go ahead and achieve great things in this game, then it's now, now is the time.
So I feel like I can harness all the experiences I've had over the previous 10 years, 10, 12 years being a professional, and I feel physically that I'm getting better and better, and I think for the foreseeable future that's going to continue to be the case.
So from 30 to 40, I think that this is the time for me to give it 100 percent, as I've always done, but to really see where I can go and achieve.
Q. Part of my question, I think you're probably still leaning on the young side, but there are so many youngish like 30 and under players that we're talking about these days. Do you think there would be that many players getting this much attention if Tiger, and to a lesser extent, Phil, were still on top of their games?
JUSTIN ROSE: Possibly not. I think the spotlight has shifted somewhat. And I think that that is a healthy -- I think we need Tiger and Phil for sure. But the future is the young guys.
So with this slightly lean period, I think maybe having the spotlight slightly shifted has created a few cool stories and a little bit more of household awareness of the young guys coming up.
So I think some of the impressive stuff, let's say Roy McIlroy, for example, top 10 in the world, it's the level of consistency that he seems to churn out, top 5, top 10 finishes that's impressive. I think learning to win is a skill and something that he has, and something that he'll only get better at doing. But it's the level of consistency at which he's playing for such a young guy, I think, is impressive.
There's a number of guys out there with the talent, but it's sort of putting the whole package together to compete week in and week out. And I think that's the impressive thing about all the young guys.
And Matteo Manassero as well. He's played like only 22 or 23 professional tournaments and already made 19 or 20 cuts and amassed two wins already, and he's in the top 30 or 40 in the world at the age of 18. So I mean there's some amazing stories out there.
Q. This came up yesterday as well. You trailed at Memorial and played the beautiful final round; led at Travelers, and I think you had a four-shot last year going into Aronimink. Can you describe the difference of your confidence level or perhaps nerve level when you go into a final round, either tie it or one behind or trying to make up ground as opposed to in a situation where you can only lose, if you know what I mean?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, sure, I think I was playing so well at the Travelers Championship that I felt really, really good on the Sunday. I felt just keep doing what I was doing and things would be okay.
It was kind of strange how I got off -- I played okay earlier in the round. I think I was 1-under through 5 or 6, or whatever, but a couple guys started making some birdies, and I made one or two mistakes. And then suddenly -- then suddenly you start to fall out of your rhythm.
And I think that's the one thing that I really noticed that week. I started playing just a little bit quicker on the back nine and things just slightly derailed. And such subtle -- you've got to walk such a fine line with your emotions out there to keep things on track.
And I learned some really, really good lessons there at Travelers Championship. And it's amazing how the game presented the exactly same challenge the very next week. I teed it up with a four-shot lead at Aronimink after losing the three-shot lead at the Travelers Championship.
And I played well on the front nine. I think I was five ahead at the turn. And 3-putted 10 and 11 both from long range, and that kind of reawakened the same feelings I had the last week, but I felt like I really stuck to my task beautifully.
I hit every fairway and every green coming in and 2-putted every hole and played a classic kind of U.S. Open-type golf to finish, close out the tournament.
And obviously Ryan Moore put some birdies together down the stretch to come close to me, but I really felt I did what I had to do to close it out.
And that's the first time I felt like I closed out a tournament in a way I could be proud of and really dealt with the emotions, committed to the shots, executed under pressure.
And obviously the Memorial was phenomenal. But that was the kind of day where I was just in the zone. Like you said, started three or four back. Just played the golf course. Didn't really have to worry about too much. Kept my head down. Before I knew it I was three ahead. But I was much more aware of the situation, the emotions, which is a lot harder.
And I think the whole key to what I'm saying is that when you start behind, you just go out to play great golf. And I think when you're ahead, it's easy to slip into the mode of not trying to make mistakes. And I think sometimes the best form of defense is to attack, I mean just to go out there and continue to see and feel and hit great shots. And that to be the goal rather than being cautious and defensive. And I think that's a very dangerous way to try and get the job done.
Q. The stats show that you're striking it well but probably not putting up to the way you like. How would you describe your game thus far this season?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, exactly that. I think I was or I am second in greens and regulation this year. And at one point I was first a few weeks ago. That's a statistic I've never led before.
I'm really excited about some of the work I'm doing in my game with Sean Foley, and it really is kind of beginning to bed in and beginning to become second nature.
So that in turn often does knock down your putting stats a little bit, but I definitely feel right now that I'm unleashing oil on the greens, if you like. And I was trying to think about The Memorial last week, and I felt like if I had Luke Donald putting for me, I kind of worked it out and felt I would have shot 69, 65 the first two days.
Just really knocking in the four- to six-footers and making one or two 10-footers, that's really all I was applying it to. But I had 21 putts on the back nine last week, shot 75, having hit the ball well to miss the cut by one.
Seems like I'm a way away, but I know that putting is such an interesting area of the game. And it revolves more around confidence than anything else.
And I believe I'm a good putter, yeah, I'm a streaky putter, but I have the ability to putt well. When I get hot with the putter, I get very hot. I know how to hole putts and read greens, but I just need that little spark or something to get the confidence going.
Q. What's your schedule leading into the AT&T?
JUSTIN ROSE: It's going to be U.S. Open, week off and then AT&T.
Q. When you look at Aronimink, is there any part of the course where you feel you can make a little hay or some parts of the course where you have to be particularly wary of, maybe the par 3s, par 5s, whatever? What are you looking at -- there are certain parts of the course you think you can take advantage of it, or how do you look at Aronimink?
JUSTIN ROSE: I look at it as -- I look at it as a golf course you can't bully at all. I think it's a golf course you can't chase scores on. It really is -- it's about keeping the ball in play, keeping the ball under the hole and really taking your chances when they come.
Obviously if you start playing well, and you start getting some more, getting more looks at it, then you start to take advantage. But I think it's a course that's if you start chasing it, if you start trying to find those birdies, then you start making bogeys.
So for me it was a test of patience more than any other, really, I felt last year. And, yeah, the putter was hot. But, yeah, I feel like it doesn't seem to be like a stretch of course that is easy or difficult. I think it's quite -- the easier holes are sort of dotted in between the round, dotted sort of evenly throughout the round. At least that's the way I'm visualizing it right now.
Q. Are there any holes out there where you're just happy when you walk off with a 4 and you sort of move on?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, most par 4s, to be honest with you. Yeah. It's about driving it well. If you're hitting only 50 percent of your fairways, you're going to be scrambling for par most of the day.
If you drive it well, you do start to get some looks. Obviously fairways were somewhat firm last year. The course didn't play overly long, but you needed to drive it in play, and then the whole course opens up.
But like I said, I think it's about patience, to be honest with you.
THE MODERATOR: Justin, thank you.
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