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July 18, 2017

Justin Rose

Southport, England

MIKE WOODCOCK: I'm delighted to welcome Olympic golf champion, Justin Rose into the interview room.

This is obviously a place where you have special memories. How much would mean to you to be able to lift the Claret Jug this week?

JUSTIN ROSE: Straight to it, huh? Yeah, obviously, that's the dream. It's the one tournament that I've dreamed about since I was a young boy, and I think especially at Royal Birkdale, you take an Open Championship anywhere, you take a major championship anywhere, but if they happen to line up a special venue, I feel fortunate that I was able to win at Merion because that club has a little something extra about it, and obviously for me, here, to do it at Royal Birkdale, would be obviously a full-circle moment, based upon I guess sort of what I did in 1998.

So it's a special venue, and like you said, lots of special memories.

Q. Just doing what you did in '98, we would have thought it would take 20 months maybe to win The Open, not 20 years. Why is it you think you haven't improved on the success from that year?
JUSTIN ROSE: It's a great question.

Q. Thanks.
JUSTIN ROSE: You're welcome (laughter).

There's no real reason for it, it's disappointing. I think maybe the expectation for a number of years afterwards took its toll coming back, trying to live up to it. I feel now, though, at this stage of my career I've sort of somewhat proved that that wasn't a flash in the pan, so I can come back to The Open a little freer than I could for a number of years.

I've had a few, I would say outside chances of very good weeks that I haven't quite capitalized upon in the past. So the record doesn't look good, I feel like Troon -- no, Turnberry, was it '09 Turnberry, actually that was a week I felt I played great golf and felt had a chance. Muirfield in 2002, an outside chance of doing very well. And then -- but anyway, yeah, but obviously the record suggests it hasn't been very good since. But I feel that I'm at a stage now where I can put all those past performances behind me and refocus on a good week.

Q. I read somewhere that one of the first things that the other players do is check the draw to make sure they're not on the same side of the draw as you at an Open, meaning you've not exactly had the best of fortune with that. Have you looked at the forecast and your tee times --
JUSTIN ROSE: When I was answering David's question I was saying that to myself in my head but chose not to say it. But to be honest with you, this week, the conditions are going to be rough. I'm really embracing it this year. I've kind of looked at the draw, and when it hasn't gone my way focused too heavily upon that fact. And this week I just embrace whatever side of the draw I happen to be on. And just compete to the best of my abilities, given the situation. So we'll see what happens, really.

But, yeah, I'm not making -- I've decided that that's kind of going to be a nonissue going forward. But hopefully if things even out the next few years should be good.

Q. Do you ever marvel at what you did at age 17? You think back and realize how much experience you now have and all the things you've gone through and think how did I ever do that?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, and in some ways I look back and I try to model it, as well, just the freedom I had that particular week, the confidence I had in my short game, the innocence in which I played the game, I think, is kind of still a model. I think that when I play my best golf I'm always trying to get rid of things, rather than add more -- get rid of thoughts rather than add thoughts. I think when I looked at my performance here when I was 17 it was very much free, playing with freedom and using my natural ability. And obviously I had things going my way, too, that week.

But, yeah, when I do look back I do marvel at how I was able to compete so closely down the stretch, and finished within two shots of winning an Open Championship at the age of 17. I guess for me it was a glimpse into what my potential is. And hard work will create another chance here and there. But when your final shot is made into a Lego scene, as it was, by somebody very creative, that was the moment when you can show your children, my kids are 5 and 8 and my nephew is 3. You see them watch it and see them now impressed, and now it's a Lego scene, that's how you know it was a cool achievement.

Q. The Open has produced the most older champions by far than any other major. Can you talk to maybe the reasons you think why this championship produces so many older champions?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I've never really thought about it. That's never been front and centre of my mind that that's what it's produced but that makes a lot of sense to me. There's a lot of experience required to play links golf. I think it's a form of golf you can learn to love over the years, if it's not something you feel immediately naturally -- it doesn't feel immediately natural. I think that you can learn to love it.

And length of the golf course isn't really a big deal. I think the ball runs a long way, so the course can play relatively short. Obviously it can play incredibly long, as well, but that's given into the wind conditions. If someone learns how to control their ball flight, they have just as much distance off the tee as a long hitter who hits it up in the air. So for me creativity around the greens, but strategy as well, avoiding bunkers, great course management is incredibly important in an Open Championship, maybe older players have learned that skill and have a bit more patience, possibly.

Q. You mentioned innocence before, at 17. Does that make it harder now in a sense or maybe make it more difficult, given experiences, years and so forth, and moments or weeks like this?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, if I understand your question, I think that -- I think that the innocence was quickly taken away from me by missing those cuts and the game became difficult, and then I tried really hard to live up to that achievement. But I feel like now I'm back to the situation in my career where, yes, I still have a lot to prove to myself, but I have a bit more freedom in which to do it. I'm not trying to prove myself to anybody other than myself. So I think that gives me the freedom to go out and play weeks like this a lot more comfortably than in years past.

Q. Quick question on the Lego thing: Where did you see that? Was that on social media? Who made you aware of that?
JUSTIN ROSE: My manager kind of made me aware of it, and then we saw it retweeted on Instagram. But it was fun to see. My kids watched it a couple of times. And apparently my little nephew, Billy, was enamoured with it, yeah.

Q. I believe you were at Wimbledon final on Sunday, seemed like you had some good seats and very close to Mr. Federer when he was celebrating afterwards. Can you take any inspiration what he achieved and the style he achieved it in?
JUSTIN ROSE: Roger is the sporting athlete I look up to and can try and model. Everything he does is pretty much spot on, the way he handles himself, the grace in which he plays the sport I think is incredible. Mentally how he doesn't give much away I think is a style that's well suited to golf, too, I think. And that's one of the reasons I really wanted to go to Wimbledon. I watched his semifinal and obviously the final.

Yes, I'm watching the tennis, but I'm watching him more than anything, and seeing what I can pick up. There are a few tricks here and there that you can apply to golf. I've always found it a bit easier to learn from other sportsmen than I have from golfers. You're trying to beat your competition here, whereas I can be completely and impressed and awe by him because I never have to face him. It's a much easier environment to learn, I think, when you don't have to compete against that person.

But obviously the whole occasion and the royal box was amazing. I worked hard last week. It was the perfect Sunday to take off to sort of enjoy a day before heading up here.

Q. Given all you've achieved as a golfer since Birkdale, the fact that remains your best Open finish. What does the competitor in you feel about that, is there a real sense of unfinished business?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, there's a sense -- yeah, it surprises me after all these years that is still the best finish. And, yeah, because of that, yeah, unfinished business, for sure. I don't want to say that if I don't win this it's going to be a huge sort of hole in my career, but it was the one tournament that even before I finished fourth here as an amateur, I got to final qualifying the age of 14 and created a bit of a story then. It's definitely been a championship that I've had great moments in. And to win it would kind of close the book in a way on my Open Championship story.

So, yeah, it's one that given your question, Steve, I've got plenty of years to try to tick off. There's no rush, but certainly I'm into the do-it-now phase of my career, yeah.

Q. What is it about the course and the area that makes an Open at Birkdale special for you?
JUSTIN ROSE: I just think the golf course itself, to be honest with you. All the areas, all the seaside towns we play, they're all fantastic, they all have a great charm about them. But for me the charm about this one is the golf course. I love it. I think it's the fairest links golf course we play, it rewards great golf. The bounce, the vagaries of the bounces are slightly less in play here than at some other golf courses we play, some other ones in the rotation.

But we really haven't played this course in good weather, virtually everybody here hasn't played it in good weather. '98 wasn't great. '08 wasn't great. This week might not be great. Because it's a fair golf course, I think it plays well in tough conditions, too. I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

Q. A few weeks ago you sat next to Haotong Li at a dinner. It was Wentworth week, and you sat next to him at a dinner at convene wood, and he was asking you for some advice, if you remember. Can you recall any of the advice that you gave him that you can share with us?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, it was a fun dinner. He really is a character and enjoy his company, and he's obviously an incredible talent. But I can't remember what I dished out, but it wouldn't have been the good stuff (laughter). I keep that to myself.

Q. After Augusta you talked about that being the start of the meat of the season, and you were really looking forward to the next six or eight weeks, whatever it was. So here we are, five, six weeks or eight weeks further on from there, are you now where you want to be? Do you feel as fit and ready to go as you would like to be?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, no, there was definitely a lull after Augusta. So a naturally one because I didn't play a lot of golf. And U.S. Open was the time that I wanted to start re-ramping things up, but that week didn't really go according to plan. And then I had two weeks off I think after the U.S. Open and one of those weeks was a holiday in Italy. And when I flew back to the UK after that, it really struck me this that the hunger was back. And sometimes you just have to wait. Sometimes you can't force it. There's a natural ebb and flow to things. You can't have a peak without a valley, really. And you've got to enjoy the momentum of both. When things aren't going well you have to accept it, keep working hard. And when things start to trend, you have to make the most of them.

Hopefully a couple of weeks ago in Ireland was the start of things turning around. There were a lot of aspects of my game that I was really, really pleased about. And some aspects that were poor and needed a lot of work, which I've been doing in this last week. If things go according to plan, the good will stay good and what was not great will improve, and it should lead to a good tournament.

Q. I wonder if you could speak to what Rory is going through right now from the standpoint of injuries, sort of getting in the way. You've dealt with it, a good little bit last year yourself in trying to manage them and the frustration of it all. I wonder if you have any thoughts on that, please.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think sometimes when you're actually in the middle of the injury, itself, it's not that frustrating because you have a process, you have to be very diligent with your rehab, and you're a bit easier on yourself because of that. But when you come out of the injury phase and you feel good and you feel fresh and you feel ready to play golf again, you somewhat expect your game to be there. But there's an element of just being back to being tournament sharp. You can hit as many balls on the range sometimes as you want, but there's something for being said for just being tournament sharp. He's probably somewhere in the middle of that. I know he's playing a lot of golf right now. He's missed a couple of cuts, but those might be the sort of competitive practices and runs that he needed just to start to get sharp again.

And the one thing about Rory is as soon as you question him, he'll do something special and turn it all around. It's happened a few times in his career where people say he's in a bit of a slump and then he'll win at FedExCup. So never worry about him from that point of view.

Q. Just a question on a specific issue: PGA Tour obviously announced its plans about (inaudible), I wondered if you thought that was necessary and whether you think the European Tour should follow suit?
JUSTIN ROSE: I don't think it's necessary, but it's also why I completely support it. I don't think there's a need for it. We're not trying to change a culture or anything like that. We're not trying to out anybody because I think the sport is incredibly clean. But also it's a sport that we wanted to be taken seriously. It's a sport that we all want to have regarded as an athletic sport. I think that the top players treat it as such. We all train hard, work hard, and believe that we are athletes. So to fall in line with other sports, if that's what's required, then I fully support it.

And I don't really have too much of an opinion if the European Tour should go the same way or not. I think they're in charge of their own mandates.

Q. My question actually goes back to fitness and Federer. In his winner's speech afterwards he spoke of it being a celebration of health, managing his schedule, being the in peak physical fitness at the right time. How important is that for you to win a major and how hard do you work on that?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, for sure. I think as he took obviously six months off and missed certain sections of the year in order to take advantage of his best opportunities. And that's obviously incredibly smart for an aging athlete. You do run into more trouble than -- you don't quite have as much resilience, potentially. So you need to be very diligent with your training.

But I think recovery for me is what becomes the key. I focus much more on the recovery side now than I do the -- I work hard on my fitness, but I don't necessarily frontload things as such as I used to. But I tend to on the back end I work much harder on the recovery.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Justin, thanks for joining us this morning. Best of luck this week.

JUSTIN ROSE: Thank you.

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