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April 8, 2008
BILLY MORRIS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to have Justin Rose with us. Justin, as you know, was a first round co-leader last year in the 2007 Masters and he finished tied for fifth in the Tournament.
He also is a winner of the Volvo Masters event on the PGA European Tour. He led The European Tour Order of Merit. He finished in the Top-12 in all four major events. He has seven international victories to his credit; four-time winner on The European Tour. This is his fourth Masters appearance, and his best finish here was last year, tied for fifth.
Justin, we are delighted to have you with us. Welcome back to Augusta and to Augusta National. Would you like to make a few comments or would you like to go direct to questions?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously it's always a pleasure to be back here, and especially after last year being my best-ever finish here at Augusta. I've been excited to get back here for the last few months, for sure.
Q. What was it like to step back on the 17th for the first time and how did you play it this time?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I did take a long, hard look at the tree that ricocheted my ball 50 yards down the fairway, and I didn't think they would appreciate me chopping it down. It's just a narrow driving hole to be honest with you and it's one that you just need to stand up and hit a good tee shot, and simple as that.
Certainly there's no big issues there whatsoever. It's a hole I played generally well at overall in the past, and no big drama.
Q. Down the middle this time?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, yeah, strangely enough. Wish I had done that last time. (Laughter).
Q. Was that you that went out with three putters today?
JUSTIN ROSE: My sand wedge, lob-wedge and putter.
Q. Have you done that before?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it's a routine that serves me well, especially the majors, the premium to me is around the greens, and especially here at Augusta National, I think that's the part of the golf course that is really the most different to general play that we face week-in, week-out.
So I went out there today to just focus on the short game.
Q. 18 holes like that?
JUSTIN ROSE: Nine. Just the back nine this morning.
Q. Did you walk 50 yards up to the green?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, just walked up to the green. Obviously sometimes you stand on the tee and visualize the tee shot I want to hit or make a note on the exact line on the tee, that sort of thing, but yeah, certainly just trying to manage in where potential pin placements are and chipping and putting to those areas, too.
Q. Similar to what Mickelson has done, spending an hour or so around each green complex and mapping that out; fair to say that's comparable, I suppose? How much time per hole, I guess.
JUSTIN ROSE: It took me 2 1/2 hours to do nine holes, so, you know, whatever that would be.
Spending a fair amount of time, probably hitting quite a few bunker shots here and there, but not hitting every area, but hitting areas I know I'm likely to miss the ball to, that's the key. For example, 11, you know that your miss is going to be right so hitting a few chips from the right side, etc., etc.
So just kind of knowing your game and understanding your game, and, yeah, practicing from likely positions you'll be in.
Q. Is this something that evolved from personal experience or did your coach suggest it? It's a veteran move, I guess is what I'm saying.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I guess it came about last year, also through injury, that happened here at Augusta the first time. I had not played a lot of golf and I was just sort of protecting my back a little bit at the time and decided that I would be better off just walking the golf course not hitting too many shots and focusing on the short game, especially after a long layoff.
Q. You had missed Doral last year.
JUSTIN ROSE: I missed six weeks in a row leading into the Tournament, so I felt that the weakest area of my game was going to be my short game and I felt like that really helped and I carried that through many events last year.
Q. For you personally, what's the most daunting part of Amen Corner?
JUSTIN ROSE: I guess it's the second shot into 11. Also 12, the tee shot on 12, I think the second shot into 11, you have a bail-out, I suppose, so maybe to answer your question, I'd say it's 12. 12 you have to stand up there and hit a pin-point iron shot and that's not so easy when the wind is blowing. It's somewhat similar to the 17th at Sawgrass when you play it in practice and it's calm and the green is soft, you think this is no big deal.
But you get to the tournament and the greens are a bit firmer and there's a bit of wind and the target shrinks. That's the probably the toughest shot and the one that can make you look the most stupid, for sure.
Q. I saw somewhere from in three Masters, you've led Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Just wonder whether you feel your game is realistically at the stage where you can have it Monday morning?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yes, I believe that, and I think the experiences I've had here at Augusta have been powerful experiences, I've had good experiences and bad experiences and you learn from both, and that's the key.
Last year I felt very comfortable in the hunt all week, really, from day one, I was on the leaderboard, and I felt comfortable with that situation and position and, enjoyed it.
Certainly I think the biggest thing about winning a major is believing you can, and last year was key for me in terms of making that step up, really.
Q. How much more comfortable do you become every time you come here, looking back at your first couple of times?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it's the kind of course that really helps the more you get to play it. And there's no -- you can prepare as much as you like, but really, when it comes around to competition time, that's actually when you learn the most about the golf course.
Obviously the pin placements get tougher and the conditions probably get generally firmer as the week goes along, so it plays a little different sometimes than it does on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
So basically the more tournament rounds you have under your belt here, the better you become and the more experience plays a valuable part around here.
Q. You're obviously not injured this year like last year. How much more confident are you coming in this year than last year?
JUSTIN ROSE: That helps. Last year I was strangely relaxed because I had no expectation, I had no pressure. I was coming off six weeks off and I had no idea how the week was going to pan out. Could have been -- any time you don't play for six weeks, there's always an element of rust or you feel there might be. So I guess that's what actually played in my favor last year, and this year, obviously I come in maybe expecting to do better and I guess that's the thing I've got to manage is my expectations and how relaxed I feel and how much pressure I put on myself.
Certainly from a physical standpoint, my game is in great shape and everything is in great shape and really looking forward to the week and obviously if I can create the mind-set, it should be a good week.
Q. You probably prefer to answer this question at the end of the year looking back, but at this point right now, what do you think the impact of the long layoff you took -- you took a little longer to start playing this year if I understand correctly; do you think that's worked in your favor at this point?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, the decision -- I took nine weeks off, which is the longest time I ever had away from the game and I actually took six weeks off without touching a club -- no, I think it was five weeks, but that's the longest period I have.
I took that decision based upon my fitness. I didn't want to have another season this year where I was missing chunks of the year through injury. I took that decision to take such a long time off as a long-term approach. So hopefully it's going to pay off for me by the end of the year and think, well, that was a smart decision.
But I think I started the year a little slower than I'd like and I feel like I'm just beginning to gain a little bit of momentum. I feel like the last few tournaments I've played, I've been very close to playing well and pretty much finished 15th my last three outings. My game has been there or thereabouts, and I'm excited about just getting a little run of form going.
Q. I guess at this point would you have started earlier, you know, like I said at the end of the year, you'll probably be able to decide.
JUSTIN ROSE: I enjoy playing golf, I like playing golf, I hate the gym, so I think the less that I have to go in there, the better. But no, it's not like a schedule I plan on doing every single year, but I thought it was necessary this year.
Q. Your aggregate score last year at the majors, you've been asked about that many times, second only to one guy; is that something you remind yourself of as you stand on the first tee that you play hard courses well and you've proven it, let's go do it again; or is last year so far removed that it's irrelevant at this point?
JUSTIN ROSE: No, I think that's proved to be the case, not just in the four majors last year but throughout my career that I've played generally the harder courses well. So that is a strength that I'll take this week, and something I'll be telling myself and using throughout the week.
Yeah, definitely, it's a part of I guess my makeup.
Q. European No. 1 on the Order of Merit and on the World Rankings, is that something you're conscious of, something that --
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I'm conscious of it, yeah. But do I let it put pressure on myself, no, I don't think so. I try to curb those expectations and I try to, you know, sometimes really simplify it so it's back down to me and the golf course and that's what I've got to go do and play, and that's what worked well in the past is going out and keeping things simple and going out and playing as hard as I can.
Q. What do you hate about the gym so much? Is it just boring or the smell or what?
JUSTIN ROSE: What kind of gyms do you know? (Laughter).
To be honest with you, I say that lightly. I think it's a necessary part of all of our jobs now to be a professional golfer; I think it's much more being a professional athlete to a certain extent. It's a necessary part and for me it's even more necessary; meaning, I want to have longevity in this game and I need to do it.
I'm beginning to like it more, I really am, but would I rather be doing something -- for me, it's not a hobby. It part of my job. So it's probably the one area that I could easily take it or leave it. But as a whole, I know it's a necessary part.
Q. You don't seem to get fazed by the odd dropped shot; does that go back to the struggles at the start of the career where it's given your strength where you can go with the blows?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think that makes sense if I look at my career, I tend to play my best when my back has been against the wall, and I think that's because I've found myself in that situation more than I'd like.
Yeah, but obviously, I think it's just a matter of once you have done that, and you have come back from those sorts of situations, you can believe you can do it again the next time. So I think it's just about -- again, it's just an experience and something that you can draw from should it happen again, even though you've done it before, you know you can do it again.
Q. You may not be aware, but for the first time this week, they are allowing kids between 8 and 16 in for free here during the tournament rounds with an adult that has an actual badge, which around here a forward-thinking notion, at the British Open they have done it for a while. It seems like a pretty good idea for the growth of the game that's been stagnant since they have kept track.
JUSTIN ROSE: I think it's a fantastic idea and the Masters Tournament obviously has a profile in the game where that can really make a difference. I understand Par 3 Tournament is being televised, also. In the hopes that it will appeal to the younger generation and make it seem that golf will be a lot more fun.
From my perspective, growing up, watching the Masters, it was a place I always wanted to visit. Even just walking through the gates would have been a childhood dream. So you know, giving kids that opportunity is great, it's a big step forward.
Q. Speaking about what Tiger has been able to do the last nine months or so, considering just over the years the advancements in golf, and you talk about getting in shape, professional athlete, the deep playing fields and all of that in consideration, do you think Tiger essentially has been able to beat the best competition of all time?
JUSTIN ROSE: In the last nine months or nine years?
Q. Well, however you look at it, looking at the state of the game today and what he has to play against every week.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think golf is -- from my perspective, I think this side of the game has really grown; the size of the tournaments, the size of the media interest and the size of all the hype around it to a certain extent, and that's grown because of him; and therefore, he lives in that world day-in and day-out. I think that's probably a big advantage he has over the other guys who are trying to compete with him, I guess in his environment, you know, standing on the first tee, crowd 20-deep, 500 cameras. Obviously that's how he plays every round of golf his whole life.
I think that obviously does give -- he's become so comfortable with that, and that's probably a huge advantage for him. I think he's -- I forget the beginning part of your question, but yeah, obviously he set the benchmark, and I think the rest of the players are getting better, no doubt about it. But so is he, and I think it's good, it's good for the game to a certain extent. Obviously makes me work harder. We all want to -- we would all love to meet a guy who can break a streak or can get the better of him at some point.
Q. If you're Ladbrokes right now and you have 50 pounds burning a whole in your pocket, do you bet the field; there's 90 other guys --
JUSTIN ROSE: I'd bet the field.
Q. It just doesn't make sense.
JUSTIN ROSE: You've got to bet the field. You have to. But it's just a test, and the bookmakers, they are pretty switched on. They don't give their money away easily, which shows the level he's got to.
But from the players' perspective, it's important not to build him up, but we have huge respect for what he's done.
For me, I focus on the golf course and keep it as simple as possible.
BILLY MORRIS: Justin, thank you so much for coming to be with us this afternoon.
End of FastScripts