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July 15, 2014

Justin Rose


MIKE WOODCOCK: I'm delighted to welcome the 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose into the interview room. Justin, you've had a fantastic few weeks, two wins in your last two events. That must give you a lot of confidence coming into this week at The Open.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't really have hoped for any better than that, obviously. And it's been exciting. I feel that winning is something that it's hard to do, obviously, out on Tour. You always talk about it being a habit and getting in contention; the more you do it, sometimes the easier it becomes to deal with the emotions that come with that. So if everything goes to plan this week and I find myself in contention again, then the policies of last week will be huge for me, yeah.

Q. That's two down, one to go, how realistic do you feel of the prospect of winning this week after you'd won so well last week in Aberdeen?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think had I not won in Aberdeen, I think this week would be a realistic opportunity, and I don't feel it any less realistic because I won last week. I think the odds go more in my favor just through confidence and the experience of having done that the last couple of weeks. Winning a Major championship is never easy, no matter what circumstances are. So for me the goal is to trust my game, to get a good game plan going, to not get ahead of myself, to get on the first tee Thursday fresh and ready to play. If I commit to all the things I know I have to do, all my skills, let them all come out this week, then I'm going to give myself an opportunity.

Q. You already won the U.S. Open, what would the British version mean to you?
JUSTIN ROSE: This is the one that I holed the putt as a junior to win on the putting green through years of practice. Thousands of time I've won The Open Championship in my mind. This is probably the one I've dreamed about the most. So of course it would just be -- I think when you're chasing Major championships, any of them will do. But if you're lucky enough to win this one, I think it would be incredibly special.

Q. How much do you expect to use your 2-iron?
JUSTIN ROSE: Quite a lot. I've been toying with TaylorMade guys, I've been working hard the last few weeks on a couple of areas in my golf bag. TaylorMade have a new UDI club, it's a like a hybrid but more like an iron. There's a 1, 2 and 3-iron version of that. I used the 3-iron in Washington, I used the 2-iron last week, and this week I actually might use the 1-iron version. So I've been bouncing around with the top end of the bag. And I've also been adjusting my wedges. By adding a club in the top range, I've had to get rid of a wedge. So I've been adjusting the bounces and the loft in my wedges to accommodate. That's the goal for me the next few days is to figure out this golf course, trying to understand if the wind blows from both directions what club is going to be important to me, and go from there. But, yeah, so basically long irons and wedges is what I'm working on the next couple of days.

Q. How tough is that to make that adjustment in time to stand on the course on Thursday with complete confidence that you're going to be able to hit the shot you see in your mind?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think the important thing is, that's why playing last week was important, because you want to know -- it's all very well to hit it perfectly, but you need to understand with your club what your miss is or what the tendency is for it, if it doesn't go to plan. I don't think you only really know that once you get a scorecard in your hand. So I know what happened last week. I had to tweak what I felt wasn't perfect last week. With my wedges, to be honest, I don't know exactly how far they do fly to the yard, which I would normally know. In links golf that's not as important, because the elements are so drastically different and the bounce is so unpredictable and the calculations that you're making, it's not an exact science playing links golf. So therefore, on the wedges side I'm a little bit more relaxed in terms of playing different lofts. It's more of the bounce that's more important to me.

Q. How much do you like hitting the 2-iron? How important is it? We all remember Tiger here in '06. How important is it in links golf to be able to hit that club well?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously it's important in links golf to keep the ball out of the bunkers. And whether it's a 2-iron, 3-iron or 6-iron, my last six holes at Aberdeen the longest iron I hit off the tee was a 6-iron. I hit 6-iron, 8-iron, 7-iron, 7-iron, 6-iron, wedge, 6-iron, 6-iron. And I hit 6-iron, 5-iron into the last five par-4s. And that's all based upon keeping it out of the bunkers. You can't play links golf with pot bunkers. They are true penalties. So whatever the club is, if it's a 2-iron or 3-iron or 4-iron or 5-iron, that's why they are important clubs is to keep it in the fairway. Typically if you take on the first set of bunkers, you're not always rewarded in links golf, because very often they are so well designed that there's the next set of bunkers, at 280, 290, 300. So your decision is to take all of the bunkers out, normally.

Q. Thinking back on the rounds where you've played just extraordinarily well, where it's all come together, especially like at the U.S. Open at Merion, what is it, can you describe what's that like, what happens in those rounds that's different in others, and what you can do to try to have more rounds like that.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, well, I think I get out of the results and more into the process and really focus on playing the golf course and understanding that it's me against the golf course more than anything. And I just get into the zone, really. I think that's the important thing for me this week, is not to let expectation or let anything like that get in my way. It's basically building a game plan and going out and committing to it. And I think that four rounds is a lot of time to play your way into a golf tournament, and that's what I've realized the last couple of wins is that you don't have to be perfect day one or two, you've just got to keep -- just basically keep things very solid early on. And just let the rounds and let the week develop. I think that's what happened at Merion. I really sort of grew into the week and felt like I got better every day. And last week I did the same thing, I got better every day. And that's the goal this week, too. But basically when I get out of result and just start to really play the golf course.

Q. You came onto the scene as a very young man. I'm just wondering, as your results seem to suggest, that it's only now that you're beginning to play the best golf of your life?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, for sure. I think it's always easy after two wins to get carried away and say you're playing the best golf of your life. I'm definitely more experienced. Each week I'm more experienced. And I think that begins to swing the pendulum in your favor. And experience plays a huge part in being able to capitalize upon your best golf. In 2010 I was probably playing just as well as I was now. But four or five years on, probably a little bit more equipped to deal with the big situation, and I have a lot more positives now under my belt, Ryder Cups and Major championships. And I've been at the top end of the game now for a couple of years, I suppose. So that brings a lot of confidence.

Q. Does it feel like the ideal age to be a golfer, if you like, the prime of your career?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, very much so. I think I'm in the middle of it. I said actually when I was 30, so 2010, that was in my mind, the next ten years from that point were going to be my prime. That was going to be when I was either going to live up to whatever, Birkdale back in the day, or I wasn't. So it was the time for me to do. Before then I kept you chalking things down for experience and learning. There comes a point when you've got to stop learning and start doing. Absolutely. Now through the six or seven years is absolutely important to me. I feel like at the same point, there's a lot of time left. You hear Phil Mickelson talking about the next five years and how excited he is about that. It just shows you the opportunity this game gives you. You stay fit, you stay healthy. There's a long time and many, many opportunities left for me to win many Majors.

Q. You didn't play in 2006. What have you done to try and familiarize yourself with the course? Have you come up here before this week? And what do you actually think of Royal Liverpool as an Open venue?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I haven't done a lot to familiarize myself, but I did make the effort of getting here last Sunday to see the golf course and I played 18 holes. Just got to feel it, really. And I think it's a very, very fair test. I think that if you think about it as not necessarily how many under par, but how many strokes you're going to need to win this week. Some par-5s are going to play relatively easy. If you don't make four, you're actually dropping a shot. So they must take par out of the equation. But whatever the winning total is, I think it's a very fair golf course, and it's going to be the guy who plays best this week. It offers everybody the opportunity to play well. The fairways are relatively flat. The greens are relatively flat, yet the trouble is there, the rough is relatively thick, but nothing is extreme. So I think it offers shot-making. It offers something for everybody. Just the guy who goes out there and plays great golf this week is going to win.

Q. It seems like the run-ins to the greens are a bit fairer. There's not so many lumps. You can actually run in from 30 yards.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, exactly. Like I say, I think that is not too much trickery. It's not like a Royal St. Georges, where it's out -- the ball can bounce from left to right and you're always having to play inventive, creative shots and really use the luck of the bounce. I think here everything is a little bit more predictable from that perspective. If we get a 15, 20-mile-an-hour breeze across the golf course, it's going to be a great test of golf from a ball-striking point of view.

Q. When Phil won The Open last year he described it as his most satisfying victory of his career because he had to overhaul his game to get it done. Obviously you've played links golf since your junior days. Do you think you've experienced a similar kind of evolution learning to you to play in this championship?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, my Open record is not particularly good if you look at it on paper. That would suggest that there definitely needs to be a change of mindset. That happened for me last week, I played the Scottish Open to get more familiar with links golf. I've come into this tournament the last few years playing links golf, but doing it by myself, trying to find different venues to get the feel of it. But I really felt like it was important to get the scorecard in my hand last week, and do it under somewhat meaningful conditions. Yeah, I mean, I've got my eye on improving in this championship. But at the same time I don't feel like my Open record is as bad as the black and white suggests. I've had a couple good opportunities, I felt like I played very well at Turnberry a few years ago. Had I putted better, I think I would have gone close there. Muirfield back in 2002, I was very young, but I was in the second or third last group on Sunday. Had I been a little more wise and older, and a bit more experience under my belt, I think I'd have done a lot better job there. So I've created a couple of opportunities, but haven't been able to put it all together. I hope now going back to your point, being more experienced that will be the case.

Q. I'm sorry to ask you about another player, but I know you'll give me the lowdown on him: At a past U.S. Open champion, how would you assess your successor, his character? Tell me a bit about his character and the strengths of his game.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I mean Martin is having a great summer, obviously with the U.S. Open probably being his highlight. And a couple of nights ago being his second highlight of the year. I think he's worked incredibly hard at his game to overhaul it, to compete in Major championships. He felt that he was possibly -- I don't know, one dimensional, the way he'd just fade the ball. He felt like he needed more shots. There's been an evolution there for him. I've just sort of paid attention to what he's been saying in the media about how he's got to the point now with his game where he doesn't have to think about it, he's a lot more comfortable out on the golf course. He's a great talent. Anyone who gets to world No. 1 is a phenomenal player, and that doesn't happen by accident. That's over 50 weeks of great golf. I learned a lot about Martin Kaymer at the Ryder Cup. I was fortunate enough to play with him in the four balls. Just his temperament and his belief in himself is fantastic. And his attitude to the winning or to the putt that secured the Ryder Cup. He saw it as a gift. I thought that was one of the greatest ways to see the opportunity, where so many players would feel the heat of that moment and he embraced it. Any player who wins a Major by a handful of shots or more is clearly very strong. Martin is a friend of mine and I think he does a lot of things incredibly well.

Q. As a kid did you play a lot of links golf? Did you like it? How did you become acquainted with it? Can you ever lose the knack for it, playing all the golf in the States and the PGA Tour?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I played a lot of links golf growing up. Virtually every Major, amateur championship or tournament is played on links golf, or they're certainly played through the summer. We don't have a lot of fairway watering. Even some Parkland golf courses can play like links courses through the middle of the summer. So I really felt like growing up I was very accustomed to it, really enjoyed it, embraced it and did very well on it. And that probably showed at Birkdale. The toughest of all days was that Friday there, where I managed to shoot 66 which was an incredibly good round. Sometimes as a pro we do soften, we play in such great conditions most of the time, and when you do get that really nasty day, you're not as prepared or as ready for it as maybe an amateur potentially would be. I think what works 51 weeks of the year doesn't always work here. To play and win the U.S. Open it's a high ball flight, it's being able to get to pins that are tucked with medium irons, and you can only do that with flighting the ball high, and getting some control that way. So I've had to -- my game's evolved to compete in the States. And that model works well most of the time. It doesn't always work well here. I've had to just relearn a few of my old tricks, I suppose. I don't think you ever lose it, you just kind of have to go and remember and just sort of get a few more rounds in, get your eye in. Because a lot of it is just getting the feel for the wind and how much curve spin you have to put to hold it up into a certain amount of wind, and when that's not the right thing to do. Basically when you have to go against the wind and when you have to play with the wind, there comes a point when the wind is too strong and you can't fight it. Just getting a feel for that again.

Q. How much did your win at Merion sort of change how you approach Major championships? Do you feel that experience has obviously put you in better stead approaching this week?
JUSTIN ROSE: Definitely. If I had coming come off a couple of wins and not won a Major championship, I would be thinking, is this my opportunity to get it done? Obviously I'd like to win No. 2 this week and that's the goal. But it takes that little bit of pressure off of me, the fact that it's been done. I have one under my belt. That monkey is off of my back. I don't have to face those questions. I can just go ahead. And I understand how I did win that Major championship. And I now have a model that works and I just need to replicate that, or at least have the confidence in which to draw upon and I know what worked for me so well in the past. Having won at Merion is a big help in this situation.

Q. Does it make a different playing in England at the Open?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think it definitely makes a difference playing here. My goal is to play the golf course this week, it just happens to be in England. So from my point of view I'm not paying too much attention to the fact I'm playing here at home. With playing at home comes a different atmosphere, for sure. You get the crowd sort of behind you and I think they'll be behind anybody that gets their name on the leaderboard this week, from an English perspective. And there's great English players that have an opportunity to win. It would be fantastic. To your point, it can make a summer or it can definitely -- the last couple of summers have been so fantastic for British sport, but for whatever reason, this year, not so much. Mo Farah has got the same responsibility at the Commonwealth Games. It's a question you guys like to ask, but it doesn't really mean a lot to the individual that's competing. At the end of the day golf is an individual sport. We enjoy competing, we enjoy the atmosphere we play in, but at the same time it's a personal pursuit, really.

Q. Do you think there are any holes in particular that stand out to you in terms of picking shots up?
JUSTIN ROSE: If you take care of the par-5s this week, I think that goes a long way -- you can look at them both ways. They can be tough par-4s. Depending on the wind direction, I haven't figured out how they play yet with different winds. If some of them are into the wind, they're legitimate par-5s. If you take care of the par-5s you will do relatively well. I thought the par-3s are good golf holes, short to mid irons, which I feel like they're really good classic holes. If you take care of those two sets, then you can afford to play the rest of the course relatively conservatively.

Q. You talked about the importance of familiarizing yourself with the course over the next couple of difficulties and perhaps how you play best when it's you against the golf course. Can you give us a feel, has experienced helped that process, the couple of days before the tournament starts? Are you better at that than you used to be?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think so. I think I know what my skills are, I know what I'm good at. I know how to play to my strengths, I suppose. In the past I was maybe less experienced and maybe not quite as good. I was always trying to improve a part of my game to fit the golf course, where now I just build my strategy around what I'm good at. I don't force things maybe as much as I once did. That was the key. And obviously that's what worked so well for me at Merion. I really think that I understood the golf course maybe better than anybody that week and how to play. And I didn't get wrapped up in all the speculation about how records might fall and how the rain was going to keep it soft. And everyone was going to tear the course up. I played the course to shoot level par, because it's a U.S. Open. And that's the way it turned out. My goal now the next couple of days is to formulate a good game plan and understand the strategy of this golf course. And similar to last week, I began on the Wednesday. I really struggled around Aberdeen, but as the week went on I really figured the golf course out. Just began to understand the strategy of it, hence why I hit so many -- obviously given a couple-shot lead, too, it made it this way, but playing the course defensively, for me, coming in was the way to do it.

Q. As you get closer to the world No. 1 ranking, does it make it more challenging to focus on the process and not get at all caught up in the result?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think I was No. 3 probably this time last year. After the U.S. Open I was definitely No. 3. I don't know what I was this exact week. But I have a feeling I wasn't close to No. 1 in the world. But I am assuming if I did win this week I'd go to No. 1. I've always said for me, I've always focused more on winning Major championships, or that the goal or striving to, than chasing No. 1. I think that's just a really nice by-product of your process and improving as a golfer. So if it happens, it happens, obviously. Right now I'm focused on this week and the fact that that gives me the opportunity, then brilliant, but it's not really front and center right now.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Justin, thanks very much, and best of luck this week.
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