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September 23, 2018

Justin Rose

Atlanta, Georgia

MICHAEL BALIKER: We'd like to welcome to the interview room the 2018 FedExCup champion, Justin Rose. First off, Justin, this has been a journey that started with that win in China, first start of the season, and just all culminating here at East Lake. You did what you had to do to get it done. Just start us off with a few comments on the season as a whole and just the overall journey.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously I think the reason I'm sort of standing here today as FedExCup is largely to do with the consistency with which I've played, a ton of top 10s. Obviously had a couple of wins on the PGA TOUR, as well, this year, and managed to keep that going into the Playoffs with finishing the year with three top 5s. There were a lot of scenarios at play. That's what the beauty of this format is. I think obviously for me this year it rewarded consistent golf.

Sometimes the FedExCup rewards guys who win at the very end. But with obviously maybe Bryson opening the door at the beginning part of the week maybe not having his best week, it kind of opened it up for so many guys this week, and clearly there were so many scenarios at play. For me, I was trying to do my best to win this golf tournament and scoop the double jackpot. But far and away, being next to this trophy is something I'm very, very proud of, and it was -- definitely with five, six holes to play, it was pretty precarious. I was in a great position around the turn, and then things just got tricky out there.

It's not easy to know you're not going to win a tournament and to try and play for a position on a leaderboard. Obviously DJ and Billy Horschel made strong finishes and somewhat had nothing to lose out there. They finished strong, and those runs, which you expect out there from other players, clearly put me in a position where I had to just hang on at the end, but I found that tricky through the middle of the back nine.

But when it got to a position -- I think back of 14 is where I just sort of had this gut-check moment really. I was over the back of the green facing double-bogey in the face there and had a really good up-and-down to get to 6-under. And I knew 6-under was going to be the magic number for me. My caddie and I had a conversation on the back of that green, and I was trying to get it into the house at 6. A bogey at No. 16 put me behind the 8-ball. I knew I had to birdie one of the last two, and I actually said to myself, I'm glad we're playing East Lake this way around, because if I had to birdie 17 or 18 the other way around, it would have been a pretty tough proposition.

So I knew that there were two birdie holes, the key was hitting the ball in the fairway at No. 17. I did that, hit a wedge right over the top of the pin. I thought that was going to actually be much tighter than it actually was. And a super quick putt, but I knew it wasn't a putt to try and race at that point because 18 is a par-5, it's a birdie hole. And I had to play the long game in my mind and just trust the fact that I could birdie 18 to win. And hit a great tee shot, which helped set it up, although it ended up in a slightly tricky lie. And I caught a little break because my second shot just sort of bounding the Bermuda rough on the top of the bunker and ending up on the green.

I was kind of waiting for a break all day, waiting for a putt to drop or something good to happen, and it just wasn't really happening through the back nine. So it was nice to catch that break right at the end.

MICHAEL BALIKER: As we were on the green during the closing ceremony, you were looking at the base of the FedExCup that lists all the other champions that have won it before you. What does it mean to have your name down with all those other great champions of the game?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, that's PGA TOUR royalty, I guess. If you win the FedExCup, that's sort of what it means. I was fortunate enough to win the 2007 European Tour Order of Merit, but there was nothing quite like the intensity of this with the Playoff-style format back then. But whenever you win over the course of a season, it just gives it something extra, it gives it something special. It's very unique. And I wasn't able to win the tournament this week, but I was able to win the season, and that's something that maybe -- there will be weeks -- next week I'll have another opportunity to win a tournament. But this opportunity only presents itself if you play very, very good golf for a long period of time through the course of a season, so I'm proud to have taken my chance this year.

Q. Do you recall a time that you were out on the golf course and going through strategy? Would you have been playing for the tournament win? Your goal at some point changed to we're no longer playing for the tournament, we're playing for a number? Was there a shot or strategy that you employed that you wouldn't have done otherwise given the unique circumstance?
JUSTIN ROSE: I didn't take on any shot that I wouldn't have otherwise taken on, but I just felt the importance of every single shot that I was taking on. When I hit it left on the tee -- left off the tee on 14, and then it ricochetted off the tree to the right, I actually thought it was so close to being a great shot from the left side of that fairway. But anyway, ricochetted right, now I'm in a terrible spot. Now it's just about not compounding errors.

I hit all the shots that I otherwise would have, but I knew how precarious any position was at that point in the round with what I had coming down the stretch to get to this point, so every shot just mattered and the importance of it, and it just felt bigger, yeah.

Q. Sean Foley talked about how you're a guy who will turn over every stone possible to find a way to improve, whereas some guys might accept their weaknesses and move on. Where does that kind of desire for improvement at any cost come from? Is it something that you learned along the way, from your childhood?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think -- well, I guess turning pro -- the game came easy to me as a kid. And although I worked hard, yeah, winning was easy, golf was easy, and then I think I turned pro and I missed 21 cuts. And I think that kind of has kept me honest in the sense of that's kept me working hard and kept me never taking it for granted. I think that's maybe where that comes from.

But, yeah, when I set my goals at the beginning part of the year, it's not so much I want to win six times and I want to win the FedExCup, it's more I want to look at this area of my game, this area of my game, and this area of my game and how much can I improve there. So I'm definitely more process-driven than the outcome.

Q. What does it say about that desire for constant improvement that you're having maybe the best season of your life reaching No. 1 at 38 years old, especially in a sport that's now dominated by youth?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I guess I'd be in my prime. Ten years ago, that was considered your prime, mid 30s. I still think it is. Yeah, we've seen a shift on the PGA TOUR, and I think today was a good day for the old guys for sure. Seeing Tiger back in the winner's circle, obviously me lifting the FedExCup. But that comes through hard work. I've had my challenges. We all know Tiger's well-documented injury history. I've had my fair share along the way, as well. Those are moments that you have to ask yourself how much you do want it because of the amount of time and diligence and sacrifice and doing all the right things constantly day in, day out. It's not just turn up and play, it's about doing 50 things every day just to be able to play your best.

I think just as you get older, you have to do -- you have to be sort of a lot more diligent, I suppose. But the fire is there. Like you say, that's what keeps me doing it. I love waking up and trying to improve, and it's certainly not a chore.

Q. Talk about where the FedExCup ranks in your list of accomplishments. You're a major champion, you've won Ryder Cups, and now you're a FedExCup champion.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think as a kid I would have said I'm a major champion, that was the most important to me. The Olympic gold medal has become as important to me just based upon people's reaction to it and how special it's felt. Reaching world No. 1, again, in recent weeks has become a third string to my bow if I'm to simplify my career. And now FedExCup champion would be right there. I know have a four-string guitar. I'm now a base player. Hopefully, I can kind of add a few more strings. Would be nice to end up with a harp. Yeah, this is obviously right up there with everything I've achieved.

Q. When you say you needed to get to 6, is that because 6 was in fourth place so you could see on the leaderboard, because you could be fifth --
JUSTIN ROSE: Correct, exactly, yeah. That was the math. You could see most of the guys -- the guys that had their good rounds had finished, you knew where they were, and there wasn't much wiggle room for other guys to do much. So 6 felt like -- yeah, it wasn't locked on at 14, but we had a good sense that 6 was the number, yeah.

Q. I saw you many times working very hard in your game, and as you said, it takes a lot of sacrifices and hard work with your team; is it the fact that you discovered something challenging that feeds you to acquire more knowledge and to improve?
JUSTIN ROSE: I mean, I think -- I have a good team of people around me for sure, and I lean on them heavily. I think that having a good team of people around me, I think just stops me going too far in the wrong direction. It's like bowling with the bumpers up. If I start to veer off, there's somebody in place to kind of keep me on the straight and narrow. And I think that we've made some good choices in the last couple of years. We've found areas of my game, we've made good decisions.

Because you're talking about not leaving any stone unturned. That's a dangerous mentality, too. You start changing things, you start searching too hard for things, you can upset the apple cart. You need to know what works for you. So I think I've good job of that the last couple of years, really identifying the couple of areas that I can improve, working hard within that. And I'm now seeing the results.

But it's going to be very important for me going into next year and the year after that, that I kind of continue to push for improvement but also understand what I am doing well. I don't know if that answers your question, but I am fortunate to have a good team to help me make these good decisions.

Q. Is it your self-education that gets you to choose the area?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think it's my intuition, not so much education. I think it's just my gut instinct tells me which way I need to go. Obviously on a day like today, I think, okay, next time it would be great to play with more freedom if I'm in that situation again. It's very hard, obviously, but that will be something I'll look at and try to recreate next time there's a scenario like this, might help me in a major champion down the stretch, whatever it may be. I have a few mental tools I use, and I try to shift it from scoreboard and what the leaderboard was doing, and I just tried to shift it into how many quality shots could I hit coming down the stretch, and I kind of hoped that that would carry me over the line rather than stressing too much about the leaderboard.

I'm always trying to adapt out there. That's the key. You have to adapt in order to keep with the pace of everyone else's improvement.

Q. Two things: In a word can you describe what that atmosphere was like, particularly with the guy who's playing behind you?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it was awkward out there, really, today. It was a situation that I'd never really been in before. Grinding for a top 5 that means so much. Clearly I didn't have my best golf today. I couldn't -- when I hit a good putt, I misread it, just overread it, and nothing was falling. So it was just a day where I was just desperate for a bit of momentum, and I kind of felt like I got it on -- I keep saying 17. On No. 8. That's kind of -- that's when I thought that I'd settled into the round and still had a chance to win the tournament. But then the middle of that back nine just kind of went a bit awry and it kind of forced me to gut-check time coming down the stretch.

But yeah, it was a very unusual situation today, and clearly, as I was bringing Tiger into the FedExCup equation, you could sense that the crowd knew that, too, and were pulling for the double. So that's cool; I mean, obviously I had many reasons to try and make sure I got the job done.

Q. And just to follow up, you guys are obviously fairly close. Just your general thoughts on him winning again and what that means or what it means to you or what it's like?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, jokingly, I said to him, about time. (Laughter.)

But in some ways, I'm half joking because he's looked so good this year, and I think that it's been a matter of time, and I think that we've all been waiting for him to win, and we've all been wanting him to win. And I think it's great for the sport, great for the game. He truly moves the needle like no one else out here, and he wins in style. He wins with charisma. He's brilliant to watch. And I think to win on this golf course means a lot, in my opinion, because it's not a course that should suit him down to the ground. There's other venues he's taken apart over his career, and this is not one of them. So I think winning here is a big deal.

Q. What does it feel like to have two putts to make $10 million, and is it any different than having two putts to win a tournament and win the usual $1.5?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it's different. I knew I didn't want a three-footer around that cup, that's for sure. Also it was an interesting scenario. There was an intense atmosphere. I knew Tiger had drive it way down the fairway behind. I looked back and then I saw all the crowd just swamping down the fairway, too, and the atmosphere around the 18th green was one of -- they wanted to see their man obviously pick this up, as well. So it was very important that I just -- I knew there would be an unsettling vibe if I left myself four feet there, so it was really important to get a good lag putt up there and make the job as easy as possible.

I felt like I had to hit the putt quite quickly based upon everything else that was going on. I felt like I had a little window where there was a little bit of calm before maybe he had hit his tee shot while he was walking down the fairway. So the way things were panning out and playing out I had a few, like 20 second there, where I felt like this is as calm as it's going to get and now is the time to go. So there was a lot going on in my head clearly., but yeah, I'm glad it was an easy two-putt.

Q. Was today a good Ryder Cup warmup?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, for sure. That was intense. I think this weekend is a pretty good introduction into the Ryder Cup for sure.

Q. No financial worries anymore, I don't think, with $10 million --

Q. Can you talk about how missing 21 cuts in a row influenced getting to here; was there a time during making zero dollars when you looked at the bank account and thought we're in trouble or eating McDonald's or that sort of thing?
JUSTIN ROSE: Well, actually even McDonald's was the key to success there. That's what I remember eating the Friday or Saturday night of The Open Championship in 1998, so maybe the steak dinners weren't doing me any good. But you know, clearly I turned pro and had a little bit of backing, a little bit of sponsorship to start with, and I could always make my way and play my events and travel. But certainly this is a far cry from those days. I've had a wonderful team around me, obviously, if I look at my wife Kate here, it's been a journey together. It's been 15 years of hard work to get to this point, and yeah, it doesn't get much bigger than this in the game of golf. The great thing is we can all say that we've done it together.

Q. When you won HSBC, you talked about it felt like you hadn't won in a while, you won the gold medal but hadn't won on either Tour. What did you get out of those two years that helped the success of this year?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think just those were -- sometimes you learn the most when you're not playing well, and I think that's when I knew I needed to make a change in my putting. That's what was holding me back from winning and that the was the catalyst of making those changes. So the lean year, even though I won the gold in '16, I had a pretty bad back injury in '16, too, that was not that well-documented, and I worked really hard through that and managed to win the gold really very -- quite unfit during Rio. And that's why I count that as such a blessing in my career, that achievement. So it was a recommitment to my fitness, and it was a recommitment to my short game and my putting, and that's kind of what's got me to this point.

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