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January 30, 2019
King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
STEVE TODD: Very pleased to be joined by world No. 1 Justin Rose. Justin, quite a long journey to get here after the weekend, but I guess those journeys are always a little bit nicer when you've had a victory. Just give us your thoughts on that.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. I should think Gareth Lord, who caddied for me, said to one of my management guys before Sunday morning, he said it was either going to be a nice trip to Saudi or it's going to be a long, difficult trip to Saudi.
Clearly after winning, it was a great trip, and so far, so good. I came out to the course yesterday. Just didn't do much and hit some putts. Chipped and putted and tried to stay awake for the most part of the day. Last night, the first full night's sleep is the key to settling in and I had a good night's sleep last night.
So hopefully the journey for the most part is done now and I can focus on the performance and playing well this week.
STEVE TODD: We have a terrific field this week, four of the top five, eight major champions, world No. 1. Give us your thoughts on competing against such a stellar field.
JUSTIN ROSE: That's one of the big reasons that attracted me to the tournament, they had secured at the time Brooks and DJ to come and play and I think I was No. 3 in the world at the time when I announced playing this tournament.
Any time you have the opportunity to play against the best players in the world, it brings added inspiration and for me, that's a big goal this week, but yeah, they have assembled a great field down here which is exciting for all of us to compete and go head-to-head against each other.
STEVE TODD: In terms of your game, you said it had been a while since you won in January, but to start off the season so well, how important is it to keep that going?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, 2002 was the last time I won in January I was told last week. Definitely a dream start to the season.
As you know, I've had a lot of change in the off-season: New clubs, clothes, what-have-you. So nice to kind of get all of that off to a great start and I can really build some confidence on that going forward now.
I can also really tailor my schedule to exactly how I want it to try and peak at the right times and to also freshen up. I played a lot of golf at the end of last year, and my goal was to always play this and take a few weeks off.
Those few weeks off I can take almost with a good conscience, knowing that I'm not way behind in points. So perfect start to the season for me.
Q. You had an absolutely fantastic year in 2018. Now with a compact season and all the four majors in four months, how do you see yourself taking that?
JUSTIN ROSE: I said to my caddie, Fooch, I think I'm ready for a big year in 2019 and he looked at me like, was '18 not big enough. I was sort of half-serious.
I thought that I was growing into some really good form and my coach, Sean Foley, he texted me on the first of January and he said, "Happy new day."
So it's kind of -- that gave me the mentality of, and I think changes from December 31 to January 1, it's not this sort of mythical, now that's over with and now you've got to start something new. It's a continuation.
I felt good about where I was at. The beginning of the year always gives you like a renewed motivation, I suppose. You can build fresh goals and a fresh start. But I felt like I could take all the confidence from 2018, move it into 2019, but going to have a bit of renewed enthusiasm, and I think also, the change of equipment and what-have-you, that's also given me -- it's freshened me up as well and given me incentive to work harder and really try and improve.
All the changes that I have been made have been made around pushing myself to become an even better player, and looking for the sort of small ways in which I can do that.
Q. Some players have struggled a bit when they have changed equipment in the past. To win as early as you have, how important is that mentally and for you going forward?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, listen, I've changed from probably one of the biggest names in the sport to possibly on the Western side of the world, a fairly unheard of brand, and you know, I had a lot of confidence in where I was going and how I was going about it.
Honma I always knew has great pedigree. They made wonderful clubs for half a century and I always knew they were going to be able to build me exactly what I wanted, and that was the key, what I wanted. I was going to be able to have a lot of input into the look, the design, the feel of my equipment, especially my irons.
I was very confident in where I was going, and like I said, it was designed around, how can I be the best player. There are also sort of angles to the deal that give me a little bit more flexibility, whether that be golf ball.
I'm not pigeonholed into having to play something that might not be -- and also, if technology changes in the next one, two, three, four years with an area of equipment, I have the ability to adapt to that and potential play it. That was important to me and a big contributing factor.
But certainly there's always doubts when you do make that change. We knew that we were making the change, probably as far back as May, June last year. I continued to have a great year obviously and ended the year world No. 1. So it looked like I changed when I was No. 1 essentially, but the decision was made prior to that.
Definitely nice to have the confidence straightaway with the equipment and answered a few of the questions.
Q. Given the confidence you've got and the way you're playing, do you feel your best years still lie ahead?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I really do to be honest with you. I think I've been trying -- I've been saying maybe for a year or two that I'm in the prime of my career.
I feel fit. I feel strong. I'm hitting the ball really well. I have the benefit of many years of experience under my belt now, so yes, it's the best of both worlds.
Now is a time for me to really go on and achieve what I hope are my dreams. There's times in your career where you can put it down to experience and chalk it up to experience, and there's times in your career where you have to just go and do it. I'm definitely in the do-it phase for sure.
Q. Do you feel like mentally you're in a place where you're not as affected by what's going on around you?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think last week was definitely a good mental performance and I think I played in Palm Springs the week before and I wasn't sharp mentally and realised I had to just sharpen up my mental routines.
But yeah, I had some adversity last week. I had some challenges. I got it to 20-under par in the back nine in my third round. Double-bogeyed 14; made a 6 at 18, just to give the field a chance (laughter).
On the start of my third round, my fourth round, even though I didn't play badly, everything seemed to go wrong for the first six holes. Putts were lipping out. Putts were finishing just over the back of greens. I didn't sort of have a break that eased me into the round.
So definitely there would be periods or years gone by where that would have sort of spooked me a little bit and I would have struggled, but I composed myself and was able to really kick on and not panic I think. And yeah, for sure, I think mentally that was a stronger performance than I would have been capable of in the past.
Q. I don't know how long since but the U.S. Open, you've been working with a mental coach that works on breathing, yoga; can you talk about it?
JUSTIN ROSE: The guy I work on with the mental side is a guy called Jason Goldsmith. He has a piece of equipment called Focus Band which kind of gives you realtime feedback on what the brain is doing.
So you could argue, it's like meditating with a metric but we use it in a very golf-specific way. We can run my routine. We can see, basically it picks up if I'm being creative or analytical. Good golf is generally around seeing good pictures and being able to react to that.
People often see me as a very technical player, when I'm rehearsing my swing, for me. I'm rehearsing what I feel is like a feel. I'm not sort of stepping through conscious positions. I'm trying to create like the overall movement to support the picture of the shot that I've seen.
So yeah, that sort of encompasses what I try to work on and always just good self-talk, telling yourself a good story all the time. Simple, but you've got to do it.
Q. When I met you about third week of December in Jakarta, after the final round, you were not really very happy after that round. I believe you were not very kind to your clubs in the locker room. First of all, I've never heard any stories like that about you, so I was quite intrigued, but just tell me this much: After that, how much hard work did you put in to just get used to your new clubs, because you didn't have very much time.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, this is true. I knew I didn't have any need for my wedges, so there was a ceremonial -- calm but ceremonial dismantling.
Q. The calmness got to a few people.
JUSTIN ROSE: It was like, you know, what how is this going to fit in the golf bag better? I think in two pieces it will fit much better (laughter).
Jakarta, the final round, I knew what was on the line. I wanted to finish the year No. 1, and just totally botched up the final round and it was due to the wedges. I was chipping it over greens, duffing it. I had a tough time there. Just took out a little bit of frustration.
But the wedge play -- so the scoring clubs is also where I feel like the improvement is to be had in my game, and chipping, wedge play, 150 yards and in. I think that's an area that I'm going to focus on.
That was sort of almost in my way, it was triggering that, giving myself that inspiration and motivation to start something new, start something fresh. The turn of the year is a good start to say, okay, this is what I'm going to work on going forward.
The Honma stuff I've been testing really since June, July last year, the early stages of trying to get the irons right and them showing me wedges and me giving them feedback on shape and bounce and sole and all that type of stuff, but it's an ongoing process, really, still.
I'm still trying to maybe -- when you have more options and you're a little less limited in what you can play, I'm still experimenting with exactly what I want, so still working with the team to build bounces and wedges and soles and looks that I love. So yeah, it's a work-in-progress still.
Q. After the victory at the weekend, Rory referenced the start of your career, which of course we all know, and here you are at world No. 1. I wonder, for all the young kids looking on this, it's a fantastic golfing story to get from that point to this point. However, you mention the technical elements of golf and it is a very technical game, but from what you say, it's sort of Zen -- wonder what message you have for young kids starting out that want to get to world No. 1 but they know it's not easy. What would you say to them?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think firstly, I would say comparison is a killer in terms of if you are always comparing yourself to people ahead of you or people around you.
I think everybody's journey is different and you've got to look inward. I would say that's the Zen part of it. You've got to look at what makes you tick and how you can improve. I think that just basically a career is never a linear line to the top.
There's going to be ebbs and flows, but if you track it over time, as long as there's a progression going forward, that's what I've always tried to believe is as long as I'm improving, I'm going to get there eventually. Talent plus hard work has to equal something good in the end.
Perseverance is I think one of the key words in all of sport. I don't think you get to the top without perseverance. There's no real secret. There's no one piece of advice they can give but you've got to be on your own journey. I would say, don't compare yourself to other players at certain ages.
For me, obviously I've developed -- always had the talent, I suppose but it's taken me a long time to believe in it myself. It's all very well for someone to tell you, oh, you should believe in yourself.
You know, that has to come from within for it to be authentic and for it to mean something. You know, my journey's taken awhile and there was a lot of scar tissue, too, from those 21 missed cuts, I would have said.
My advice to young players is play at the lowest level you can, provided you're still improving. I think that that, confidence-wise, you're always just able to protect yourself and be able to move forward.
But you know, if you go -- if you do turn pro too soon and if you have tough, tough experiences too soon, yeah, it's hard to come back from.
Q. In speaking to His Royal Highness about this tournament, and it's inevitably attracted, whether it's fair or not -- I just wonder what your response is to some of the stuff Brandel has been saying not very kind stuff about the Saudis and the players that are coming here. What's your reaction to that?
JUSTIN ROSE: I have not been paying attention to what Brandel is saying. I know people obviously have their opinions.
It's never straightforward, is it. But I think that obviously we're here to support The European Tour. I'm a European Tour player.
For me, I think I can only commend their vision in terms of growing the game of golf. That's the industry in which I live. I'm not qualified to speak on any other subjects to be honest with you on great detail or authority.
Between now and 2030, there's a big push here for golf. Many, many courses are going to be developed. Hopefully golf is a conduit to bridging the gap between this region and how we perceive golf in the western world.
Who knows, 20, 30 years ago, Abu Dhabi looked somewhat similar to here and Dubai, we've all seen the growth and what's possible in these regions, and can only support the vision.
And I think having the top three players in the world and many other great players here, we're all here to support growing the game of golf, and golf is our industry. So that's all I can speak to.
Q. You seem to having cracked the distance going seamlessly from one year to the next. A lot of players start up again after Christmas and it's almost as if they start out completely anew, and they haven't a clue as to whether they are going to have a good year or how it's going to go. What did you have to do to get across that hurdle?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think two things. Obviously changing equipment, I just told my story of nothing new. Even if I had stayed at TaylorMade, I'd be playing new equipment. Every year there's new drivers, new irons released. It's never a new process. Changing equipment is something we get used to.
I think it's a lot easier in this day and age than 20 years ago because we have the technological advances in TrakMan and all these types of stuff that give us such good feedback on what exactly the club head and the ball are doing. That process has become much easier, but also it's just the mentality and a mind-set.
What Sean texted me on January 1 resonated, "Happy new day." I think sometimes we think there's this big shift year-on-year. I think it's a nice time to freshen things up, and if you need to sell yourself on a story, it's a good time of year to do it.
But really, nothing changes. You are today because of the decisions you made and the things you did yesterday. It's a day-by-day thing, really. That's just the way I choose to see it, if that makes any sense.
Q. Coming from No. 1, I would like to get your opinion on the golf course, hosting the first tournament here in the Kingdom.
JUSTIN ROSE: Unfortunately I haven't seen the golf course yet, just generally.
I landed yesterday morning at sort of 6.00am, and as a rule I never play golf the day that I land. Firstly, I always play terribly because I feel off and there's no value to it.
I've seen the facility. I've seen the clubhouse. The gym facility at the course is amazing. Everything looks stunning out there. You know, I can see why they call it the Royal Greens. The grass is emerald green. It's beautiful. We did the photo opportunity yesterday, I think down the 16th hole, I think it is, the par 3 with Bahama-like waters where I live, just right there. Everything looks fantastic.
My caddie, when I walked the course yesterday, said it's a good test of golf, and all the guys are talking positively.
Q. Did it exceed your expectations?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think so. I think so. We're having such a comfortable trip. We've been so well looked after. The facilities here, I'm just looking out, I can't wait to get to the chipping green. It looks like great facilities out there, great wedge green over -- I'm actually looking at it now, over the other side of the clubhouse.
I used the putting green yesterday. The paspalum grass is actually one of my favourite grasses to play. It's almost a new grass. I think sort of 15, 20 years ago, they said it was a grass for resort courses, but the way they are able to maintain it now, I think it's a grass that works really well for tournament play. The ball sits perfectly on it and it's a really fun grass to play on.
Looking forward to getting out there and seeing the whole course today.
Q. Just coming to this tournament, you are going to play with those guys a lot more during the year, and majors, they will be a lot more focused and world No. 1, 2, 3 and 5 playing together. But this week, how much will it mean for to you do well and just send out a message for the rest of the year?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously the world No. 1 position has been going back and forth, back and forth.
Obviously last year we had four guys, I think Thomas, Johnson, Brooks and myself kind of vying for it. Especially the end of the year was like back and forth between me and Brooks. It was going to take a player a good run and a consistent run of win to go break clear of that.
So obviously, yeah, sure, last week I managed to just putt a little bit of breathing space in there, and that's motivation for me this week is to continue that form to try and continue building that lead.
I mean, the world No. 1 position is important to me but it's not my primary focus this year. My primary focus this year will be around the major championships, but clearly it's a nice thing to have. The bigger lead you can build, the better.
But in a scenario like this where you are playing against the top three in the world, at a tournament like this, it is on your mind and it's nice to, it will be extra motivation, obviously, to keep going forward.
STEVE TODD: Justin, we'll let you go out and see the golf course, thanks for joining us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports