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April 5, 2007
RONALD TOWNSEND: Good afternoon. We welcome Justin Rose. Justin is enjoying a good start to the 2007 season. He captured the MasterCard event on the PGA European Tour, he was third at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, and tied for 5th at the Accenture Match Play.
Justin shot 3-under par today. We invite your questions.
Q. Can you talk about what it was like to get off to a bogey-free start today in these conditions?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously that's exciting to go bogey-free on any course on any day. But first round on Augusta on a day where obviously the scores are pretty high makes it a very pleasing round. Yeah, one that I'm very happy with for sure.
Q. At the Canadian Open last year you were asked about only playing one major in the last few years and you seemed perturbed and that you would use it as motivation. What turning point have you hit since that time?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think back at the Canadian Open, I was already in my turning point. I felt like my game was already turning around. I was playing very, very well. I knew that I was on -- I was playing good golf, and it was only a matter of time before I was back playing in those events. Certainly I've been working hard at getting my World Ranking back in the Top-50 which enables you to play in all of these events.
Certainly it's nice to be teeing it up in The Match Play, the World Golf Championships, and obviously the majors.
Q. How worried were you a few weeks ago that you would not even be back here?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, a little worried definitely. I had a back issue with some disk problems in my lower back.
Yeah, I've worked very hard on my fitness and my rehab in terms of getting myself fit and strong for this week. Took the decision not to play in Doral because I didn't want to jeopardize my chances of playing here at Augusta.
Yeah, basically it's been four or five weeks of just working really hard on my back.
Q. You've hit, I think it's five fairways and only 20 putts; can you explain that?
JUSTIN ROSE: You mean I made a 2-putt? (Laughter).
I believe it was five greens. Sometimes statistics don't always tell the story. On more than one occasion, I felt like I was 10 or 12 feet from the pin putting for birdie, but on the fringe, in the case of a couple of two putts or a one putt that goes down as a zero putt.
Certainly my short game was unbelievable today and that is why I managed to shoot such a good score and play a bogey-free round. Up-and-down well, controlled my chips well, managed to control the trek and trajectory on them. Also, I put myself in spots where you could up-and-down the ball. Only hitting five greens, my course management was good enough that I was not short-siding myself in impossible positions where you can't get the ball up-and-down.
Q. If I'm not mistaken, you were the 36-hole leader the last time you were here in 2004. Just talk about the thought process; was that a confidence-boost for you, or was that too long ago from there to here?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, I think it's certainly something that I can learn a lot from, that experience, no doubt.
I think experience is generally what makes players better and better as they go throughout their career. It's a very positive one as I look back at it. Sometimes you learn more from situations that go badly than when things go well.
So I learned a lot about the golf course that particular day, and I learned a lot about, you know, how you've got to really pace yourself during the week and obviously the tee times are quite late on the weekend. You've got to try to find ways to fill your day up until your tee time to occupy yourself.
Q. How much of an improved player are you now from three years ago?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think a lot -- a lot better, a lot better. I've been working hard on my game over the last two or three years, so I hope that that alone makes me a better player.
I think putting, I think just over the last year or so, has turned around. I'm putting very, very well. Short game was great today.
And, yeah, I feel comfortable in my golf game, and obviously golf is a game of confidence and I feel quite confident too.
Q. It's not leaders out tomorrow, but you are out last. What will you do differently to last time as far as occupying yourself?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I'll probably watch a little bit of Little Britain DVDs, Ali G DVDs, just stuff to occupy your mind really. What is it; 2:15 I think I'm off tomorrow.
That's the thing, I'm sure guys are going to go out there, play decently this afternoon, probably go out tomorrow early and put a run in, and I'm sure I'll be turning up tomorrow not atop the leaderboard. You have to forget about it, reset the dial, and you treat tomorrow as a clean slate really.
Q. Your course management, certainly the shot on 5 showed that, especially the bunker shot?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I holed a bunker shot on 5 there. The tee shot I missed slightly left and I put myself in a position where I could not fly it on to the green and decided to run it up the slope with a 5-iron. I just knew it was an easier shot if I just trickled to the back of the green in that bunker rather than dealing with that big swale at the front of the green. That's probably a good example of knowing the bunker is not a bad place to be and that shot is easier than having a 40- or 50-foot putt over that ridge.
Q. Is there anything you felt in your back during the course of the round today and is there anything that you have to do before a round to get your back ready?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, I'm just sort of cautious of making sure I'm fully warmed up by the time I get to the practice range and stretch a bit more than I normally would and you might see me out there leaning back into extension, just really trying to keep myself moving.
Q. A lot of players have said coming in today that this course is playing much differently than they have seen in years and we may finally be getting the firm and fast course they hoped for six years ago. How much different did it play for you today than a couple of years ago when you played so well here?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it's certainly firmer and faster than it was in '03 and '04. I seem to remember it being quite wet.
The greens always play fast, but it's obviously the firmness that really starts to impact you in terms of the shots that you can hit into the green, and therefore, which pins you can actually go at. When you can't go at pins, you have longer putts; therefore, you don't make as many birdies.
I really like firm, fast conditions. I think that's what all us players really do like, is when the course plays firm and fast and seems to ask the right questions.
Q. Was the wind more of a factor or the firmness of the greens more of a factor in the scores that we're seeing?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I didn't really notice -- there wasn't a lot of wind out there. It may have been eight miles an hour today. Let's call it an average day of wind really.
So I think the course was more of a factor than the conditions.
Q. Talking about ways to occupy your time on days when you have late tee times, is that something that you had to learn the hard way when you were here before? How did you try to fill up that day after you had the 36-hole lead?
JUSTIN ROSE: I don't remember really. I think I probably didn't find ways of filling up that time; therefore, it was waiting for my tee time for too long.
But it's good, I have a lot of family around me this year, a lot of friends in town. It's a lot easier just to have some fun and hang out and it should be no problem.
Q. Looking at that leaderboard there, what should that tell us about the conditions of the course and how it's affecting this field?
JUSTIN ROSE: Well, I think it should tell you that it's a major for sure. That seems to be what a lot of major tournaments are striving for; that the course really tests the players to their utmost really.
Q. Do you see any common denominators? Five of those guys were Ryder Cuppers last year.
JUSTIN ROSE: I think all very, very good players. I mean, every player that's playing this week has earned their spot and is a great player.
Especially -- no, I mean nothing surprises me looking at that leaderboard other than really 1-under being third place really.
Q. You thought it would be lower than that?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I thought maybe there would be sort of -- somebody always seems to go low on day one. I thought maybe 4 or 5 would lead at the end of the day. I certainly thought there might be a couple more scores around that 2-, 3-under today, but obviously the course was tougher than everybody figured.
Q. As you rested your back, how much time did you have to stay off where you couldn't practice and what were your expectations coming in here this week?
JUSTIN ROSE: I really started practicing the week of Doral, started hitting a few shots that week after the Match Play, whatever that was, felt like forever, but was probably three weeks.
Therefore my expectations this week were twofold. One, I knew I was playing well, and two, I knew I was going to be -- I had a lot of energy this week and really excited to play. So I had all of those great emotions. But on the other hand, I didn't have a lot of sort of tournament sharpness under my belt. So didn't really know quite what to expect, but obviously it worked to my favor today.
Q. Which was the better round, this opening 69, or the 67 that you're proud of?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, that's a good question. They look very similar. I think I led by two after the first round last year (last time). It looks kind of similar to me.
I think this round, really, just because of the short game element. Probably two weeks ago I didn't feel that comfortable with my short game, but really put in a lot of hard work over the last couple of weeks and that really came through for me today. So that was really rewarding.
I think this round is much fresher in my mind, but I probably played better in the 67 last year for sure -- I mean, in '04, but today was much more of a great grinding round.
Q. Walk us through your birdies on 3 and 14 if you could.
JUSTIN ROSE: 3, I hit a driver just up the right side and had, I think it was about 100 yards into a little bit of wind and I hit a nice sort of half-wedge in there to two feet and made birdie.
On 14, I hit a driver and I was right in-between clubs, in between 7- and 8-iron, and was over the 8 and my caddie backed me off and we ended up hitting 7 and hit a good shot there just to the back edge of the green. I was on the fringe, probably 14 feet, 12, 14 feet and made the putt there on 14.
Q. How many yards with the 7-iron?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think I was 170, but I was only trying to pitch the ball like 158 or something.
Q. You had a number of events on the U.S. Tour late last year where you led at some point, and you've also led a couple of times already this year. Do you feel like if you keep pounding on the door it's going to eventually open for you?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I hope so for sure.
I think obviously breaking through in Australia end of the year, end of last year was good for my confidence. Obviously I put myself in position a lot of times and not quite finished it off, so to win in Australia was great.
The Bob Hope, I felt really comfortable, calm and comfortable with my emotions in the last round. Although I didn't win, I felt like I did everything I could have to win. I felt really calm and comfortable so. That was a great sign for me.
Played some great golf at the Match Play, came up against some strong players and managed to win a couple of games there.
So there's a lot of things for me to draw on, a lot of positives going on right now so I'm hoping that's the case.
Q. We've mentioned '04 a number of times and sometimes we even referred to it as last year by mistake. Does it feel like a fresh memory or does it feel like a long time ago?
JUSTIN ROSE: Feels like a long time ago. I feel like I've made a lot of changes. I feel like a different player and a better player, so therefore it's kind of easier to look at it as a fresh challenge from here onwards.
Q. How about as a person?
JUSTIN ROSE: As a person, I think it still feels like a long time ago, to be honest. If I look back, there's a lot of hard work been done, and yeah, just doesn't -- doesn't feel like yesterday and feels like a good couple of years ago.
Q. Following up on '04, when you left here after the tournament in '04, were you more proud of the first two days, disappointed in the third round, or some balance in between?
JUSTIN ROSE: I was proud of the fourth round. I was pleased with the way I came back after that third round and shot 71 in the final round. You know, especially that day I felt I played very well and could have easily been a few better, so that's what I was pleased with really.
Q. You know the Europeans have dominated Ryder Cup, but won once here since 1989. Do you have an explanation and do you feel any pressure?
JUSTIN ROSE: I don't have an explanation and I don't feel any pressure. (Smiling).
Yeah, it's very strange, but if you look back at it, there were a great cop of European players at the time, Seve, Faldo, Lyle, Woosie, and I think we are getting close to having that again in Europe, some good British players and really a lot of great European players. So that run could happen at any time.
But there's no real -- for me I can't explain exactly why.
Q. How much adrenaline was flowing from first thing this morning knowing you were back to play in the Masters?
JUSTIN ROSE: I was excited for sure, but I felt sort of very, very calm, just knew how much of a long road there was ahead of me. I think I tried hard this week just to treat this tournament as 72 holes, but one shot at a time, and that's the process I went through today. I didn't really get too excited or too down after a good or a bad shot, and that's the plan for the rest of the week.
RONALD TOWNSEND: Thank you very much and good luck tomorrow.
End of FastScripts