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February 27, 2008

Justin Rose


STEWART MOORE: We welcome Justin Rose to the interview room here at the Honda Classic. After a spectacular year last year, you climbed all the way into the top-10 in the world, do your thoughts and expectations change at all this year? Obviously, you're one of the highest ranked players at every TOUR event you play.
JUSTIN ROSE: It's all pretty much stuff that you guys can worry about. It doesn't really change my job out on the golf course and obviously sometimes, yeah, you recognize it or you sometimes feel that, but it's important not to really, you know, believe it if you like. The job is still to go out there and play the golf course, and that's kind of what worked so well for me last year and that's what I need to keep doing.

Q. And you played nine holes out there in the Pro-Am this morning, you had not played this golf course for this tournament yet, what did you think of PGA National?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think it's a great golf course. That's one of the large reasons why I put it on my schedule. I looked at the scoring last year and obviously 5-under par winning the tournament meant to me it was a tough challenge and a good test. That's the kind of golf that I enjoy.
Obviously it's had some great tournaments here, Ryder Cup and PGA, so this always was going to be a great track. It didn't disappoint me. I played 14 holes on Tuesday and really enjoyed the course, good variety of holes, some really tough holes, and actually, yeah, I saw the Bear Trap today for the first time. Yeah, it was good.

Q. What is it about the courses that don't surrender a lot of birdies to a place where the winning score is going to be relatively close to par that attracts fields like this, as opposed to a place that's sets up to shoot 23- or 24-under?
JUSTIN ROSE: It becomes more of a mental challenge, the words you hear all the time, patience, grinding characteristics and qualities come through. That's generally I think what players learn by competing at highest level and competing in majors. So when you do get a low score at a regular TOUR event with similar characteristics, it's an attraction.

Q. This is probably old ground for you to cover, but when you went over back to the U.K. last fall, was it somewhat of a surprise to you that you were in the mix and eligible to win the money title? In reading some of the stories over there, I got the impression that it was like, oh, really.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously I knew I had the chance. It became a goal of mine when I went back there. Obviously I think when I finished second at the Bridgestone Invitational, that really kind of jumped me into a position that I knew if I went back to Europe and played well, I had a chance to win.
That's when it became a goal of mine. But certainly at the beginning of the year, it wasn't even on my radar at all, and to do it in 12 events was unbelievable to be honest with you, and I didn't think necessarily doable.
But yeah, it was obviously a great way for me to finish the year and I need to finish top three there at the Volvo Masters; and so I win the tournament knowing that with two tournaments on the line, if you like, or two titles on the line, it was a great week.

Q. As the Order of Merit champ, does that change how you're going to straddle the two tours? Are you going to maybe play a few more over there than you had planned to, say, this time last year since you're sort of the man?
JUSTIN ROSE: It's a difficult one. I may drop one more in or something but I still think I really need to focus over here January to September pretty much, FedExCup schedule focus over here, and then post that, focus on Europe.
I think The European Tour maybe 2009 onwards is going to change a few things and potentially 13 is going to become the minimum number with the whole Race to Dubai, so maybe that's when I'm looking to slightly change my schedule.

Q. Speaking of the FedExCup, yesterday they announced some tweaks to the points. I don't know if you're aware, but just curious your reaction. I guess they are going to make the gap smaller once you get to the playoff events when they reshuffle, and they are going to give more points in the events with the idea of making some more movement. I'm wondering what you think about that, if they have gone far enough.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, at 182nd or whatever I am right now, I think that's awesome. (Laughter).
I think that's the way I felt it was going to work last year. You know, when I looked at it and thought, you know, hey, you can play well all year, but all of a sudden you start the Playoffs with a thousand-point advantage, I thought, that's really condensing everybody.
It didn't actually -- it proved harder to move than I thought it was going to, and obviously that was the reason behind designing it was that, you know, to obviously encourage everybody to play the last four, and the fact that you're going to have to work hard and play hard to win it.
You know, I agree with it. I think that's what it was designed around, and obviously, for example, they had the right guy winning it the first year, but you know, I think a bit of volatility would be good.

Q. Apparently they crunched the numbers and they used the new adjustment and applied it to last year, there would have been 12 guys with a chance to win it in Atlanta, instead of I think mathematically, there were five or six. So it should bring twice as many candidates into the mix.
JUSTIN ROSE: That's amazing. Obviously this year with a much bigger cash element to the first prize, that's going to be crazy. It will be good.

Q. Was Ernie Els much of an influence on you or someone who made an impression on you coming up, and what would that be?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, actually he was. It's funny, Ernie is certainly not old but when I was 13, 14, he was certainly one of the guys I looked up to. I think he had probably just won his first U.S. Open at the time and was the young guy out here doing great.
I always looked up to him and Nick Price, actually. It's funny, obviously I was born in South Africa, but it's not really the reason why I looked up to those guys. But they both came across as really nice guys but had that ability to win, so not necessarily guys come last, which is obviously the old adage. They were nice guys, but winning. Those were kind of the reasons why I looked up to both of them.

Q. Have you paid much attention, he's had some frustrating finishes of late; is there any sympathy, or it's just that's life on the TOUR?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think that's life on TOUR. And I think also from my perspective, as well, you know, we don't always win tournaments every time you're in the hunt, and sometimes you give yourself a hard time about that, you know. But sometimes it's almost encouraging to see guys, because you know Ernie is out there and is experienced enough, and it's not like he's not handling himself well. Sometimes that's just the way golf is.
It's almost from another player's point of view, it's almost encouraging to see it happen; so if it does happen to you, you don't beat yourself up too much about it. That's the way I see it. But yeah, he's been unfortunate, but hey, he's won many, many times around the world, and will continue to do so.

Q. Do you consider putting to be one of your strengths? It seems to be reflected that way statistically, at least, certain years some better than others, but it doesn't seem to be a weakness. The reason I ask is all of us and to some degree even players are waiting to see -- waiting for someone younger than Tiger to come along to potentially unseat him at some point, and putting seems to be an issue for many, many, many of the younger guys; Trevor, Charles, everybody, maybe but Aaron Baddeley or yourself.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think I would say my putting has been a large contributing factor to why I've played better the last two years, say.
I don't think anybody actually thinks they putt well, I don't know. (Chuckling) I think we expect to hole everything, and sometimes when we don't, we're hard on ourselves.
Yeah, my putting, I do feel like I've become a good putter and I think the advantage for me is I feel like I'm a good putter on fast greens, i.e., Augusta; I won a tournament in Australia on really quick greens, and I felt like in the past, that was a weakness of mine. I've worked hard on that.
Yeah, it is a key to winning, holing putts at the right time. You just have to watch the Match Play last week, didn't see him miss a putt. Tiger didn't miss a putt, that's the way it looked and that's hard to beat and that's hard to play against. Yeah, I think putting is a huge part of winning golf tournaments.

Q. Can you make yourself a better putter or is that largely an innate thing; you've either got it or you don't, maybe a little?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think the green reading thing is a hard thing to kind of learn and to practice and to get better at. You know, I think stroke-wise, mechanics-wise, rolling a golf ball, yeah, you can get a lot better than that, and you can improve your touch.
I think the one hard thing with putting is to improve your green reading, and that is such a large part of putting, and that is maybe why there's good and bad putters.

Q. You mentioned you had seen the Bear Trap for the first time today; your thoughts on it?
JUSTIN ROSE: I thought it's two great par 3s. Today, they were downwind off the left, so that kind of suits the hole, because the green sort of sits, what would sort of be a fade for a right-handed player, you could hit it left-to-right, so the wind was helping there and obviously the greens were soft, so it was playing relatively easy.
But if you had the wind in off the right, greens firming up, it's a completely different golf hole. Because if the ball goes on the wind, you hit it long left or if you just hold it up too much you're short right in the water, and it becomes a totally different hole.

Q. I'm sure you've already been asked a million times about Birkdale, but when you reflect back on that, do you think of that as being a good experience, or was there anything that hurt you because of the high finish at such a young age?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think it was obviously an incredible week and a fairy tale ending, and it's much easier for me to sit here, 7th in the world, say, and to say I don't regret anything that happened that week.
But I think for a significant period of time, it probably distorted my view of my game and everybody else's view of my game, and probably made things a lot harder. But again, it created so many opportunities for me that were good and bad that obviously I learned from and I think made me stronger and better and ultimately has helped me become a better player, probably because of all that.
So, yeah, I don't really remember much of the week itself. I just think that the opportunities that it gave me in the long run have been worth it. But yeah, at the time, I think I looked back and I thought, yeah, you began to almost think, yeah, maybe I was better off if that didn't happen.

Q. Have you been back there since?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, I haven't.

Q. No?

Q. Do you have a feel for how the course ranks amongst links courses?
JUSTIN ROSE: It's the best in the world by far. (Laughter).
I think it is a good one. I think all of the pros like Birkdale as far as I'm aware pretty much. Again, I can pretty much remember all the holes, but not to detail, not to really think, oh, it's a great course because of all this. And I was 17 years old at the time, I probably didn't know anything about course management and stuff. I was out there just playing.
But I'm really looking forward to going back, and I will visit the venue before the tournament week itself, because I think it's important for me to have a little bit of reminiscing time and obviously you can't do that, you know, championship week.

Q. Had somebody like Rory McIlroy knocked on your door and said "What should I do before" he decided to turn pro after playing so well last year, what might you have told him about the pros and cons?
JUSTIN ROSE: There's also a young lad called Oliver Fisher on The European Tour, he's 18 years old and he's every bit as good as Rory I think. They are both great players. You know, he did speak to me when he was like 16 years old coming through. He broke my Walker Cup record as the youngest player. Yeah, he wanted a little bit of advice and I told him, yeah, listen, turn pro, that's great, no problem. Because as an amateur, I think that's maybe only a certain level you can get to because you don't play enough tournaments and the venues that you play at, for whatever reason -- so I think turning pro is the way to go if you want to further your game.
But, I think, my point of view is don't put too much pressure on yourself too early. That's what I did. 17 years old I thought I had to have a TOUR card and I had to be out playing with the bigger guys all the time. But as long as you're still getting better and better and better, that's ultimately all that matter as that stage and 17, 18, 19, as long as you're improving, that's all you need to be doing.

Q. Did missing those 20-odd, whatever it was in a row, now that you're in that chair and an Order of Merit winner, did that make you a better player in some twisted, demented way in that they can throw anything at you now and you can handle it better?
JUSTIN ROSE: I just feel like sometimes I perform my best when my back such against the wall or I really have to, or sometimes in the bigger situations. And I think that's just -- what I felt like I got out of that experience was just the fighting. I had to really dig myself out from a pretty big hole that I made for myself, so I guess that's where that comes from and that's where I feel like I've gained from that whole thing.

Q. Were doors starting to close to some degree?
JUSTIN ROSE: Oh, definitely.

Q. All of a sudden the phone calls weren't being returned and you weren't getting sponsor exemptions?
JUSTIN ROSE: No doubt. It got to a point where I didn't almost want the exempt. I wanted to kind of go underground and below the radar.
But yeah, certainly that happened. I was back playing on the Challenge Tour and roughing it, and, yeah. But that's the reason I turned pro, it was always going to take me three years to establish myself and be out there on the main tour, and it's really amazing when I look back, that three-year plan was really realistic.
Then the Birkdale thing happened, going back to your question, as well, and then I got ahead of myself, everybody around me got ahead of themselves and that's the way it all worked out.
But the three-year plan was really realistic, and that's why I turned pro. I knew it was going to take me a year on the challenge, or maybe a year on mini-tour tours, a year on the Challenge Tour and then getting on to the main tour. That was kind of the progression I saw and that all went out the window when Birkdale happened.

Q. I think you were 12th or better in all the majors last year; what did that mean to you?
JUSTIN ROSE: You know it meant a lot to me just consistency-wise knowing that my game stood up to not just one tournament once, or not just one type of course, but all four types of courses amongst the best players, you know, with the highest amount of pressure. So that was encouraging.
And I think that I prepared for them all the same way, and I think it's nice to have maybe found a preparation routine that I feel gets me the right frame of mind going into the tournament. So, obviously I'll do the same this year, and hopefully it will be, you know, even better and more refined and you know, see the results.
Yeah, the preparation is what I was encouraged by last year.

Q. What's your routine?
JUSTIN ROSE: Generally it's like obviously just assessing the golf course, the shots required, if anything is slightly different.

Q. Do you play the week before?
JUSTIN ROSE: No. The week off before, and really working on what's going to be required the next week. So you get to the tournament and you're into the golf course, you're not on the range trying to find all the right sort of shots. All the work is done.

Q. You mentioned that nobody ever thinks of themselves as a great putt error good putter because of the misses. Last year Boo Weekley could have won this tournament if he could have made a putt longer than three feet on 16. How does a player get past that and has anything like that happened to you?
JUSTIN ROSE: I don't know, Boo probably doesn't even remember it. (Laughter).
You really do need a selective memory as a golfer. You need to be able to -- that's another thing that, I mean, my recollections of when I first turned pro and all those missed cuts, it seems like another lifetime to me, and I don't even -- I can't even really remember it at all. It's like a huge, fuzzy -- that's probably like a defense mechanism, you do block it out.
Yeah, I would say it's an attribute to have is a selective memory or memory loss.

Q. The three-foot range, is that what every guy has to lock down before he moves on and becomes a great player? Do you work on that more than any other range or not necessarily?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, actually. No, I don't. I've never really put -- three-foot's never been -- I think when you start putting alarm bells around a 3-footer it suddenly becomes harder, so to me I don't necessarily even register as, this is a 3-footer and whatever. It's just each putt as it is and hit it.

Q. Is it a misnomer to think that golfers from the U.K. are more experienced playing links golf? I'm just curious, did you play a lot of links golf growing up, or are you playing parkland courses like people play over here?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think we're probably more experienced at it. It doesn't necessarily mean we are better at it. Obviously you look at The Open Championship, there's been a lot of American winners there, obviously.
But yeah, in all of the big amateur events in the U.K., are all held on pretty much the greatest links courses, so we do get to play all those, you know, Open Championship-style venues as an amateur. So, yeah, we did get a lot of experience under our belt on those venues.

Q. Did he besides Birkdale, do you have a favorite?
JUSTIN ROSE: There's one actually down called Burnham and Berrow, you wouldn't really have heard of it, which is a bit random. But I won the England Under 18s as a 14-year-old, and that's a really fun little links course.

Q. How did you qualify for Birkdale?
JUSTIN ROSE: I qualified. I was exempt in the first stage because I was a Walker Cup player, and then I did final stage at Hillside across the road.

Q. So you were not exempt from winning the Junior Amateur or something?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, I qualified.

Q. Not like Dough (Nick Dougherty)?
JUSTIN ROSE: The honest way (chuckling).

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