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May 31, 2011

Justin Rose


MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome our defending champion Justin Rose. If you want to talk a little bit about coming back to defend here and then we'll take a few questions.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously it's really nice to come back to a tournament that I have had great memories from last year, and it's one of my favorite weeks of the year, even before I won it last year. It's always been one of my favorite stops.
To get back this year, and when you arrive there's pictures of you all about the place and your locker is in the champions area, just little touches like that make it a special week for sure. Hoping to feed off some good memories.
MARK STEVENS: Have you been on the course this week? And if you want to make a couple of comments about the course.
JUSTIN ROSE: Sure, played nine holes today, played the back nine and heard how much rain they've had, and no doubt the rough in some areas is a little squidgy, but the golf course is every bit as you expect it to be this time of year. Greens are looking fantastic, fairways are relatively firm considering it's rained something like 28 out of 31 days or something crazy. Course is in perfect shape. Obviously there's been a big change on 16 year this year, and that's pretty interesting to see that hole, so it's going to be fun.

Q. Just wondering does your mentality change here as defending champion? Anything different in the way you approach this tournament this year or think about it?
JUSTIN ROSE: You know, not really. I feel like my game is in a very similar situation to how it was last year. Playing really well without having had the results, and I think the key is patience.
So for me this week, just being defending champion, don't let that make me try too hard, just let the week unfold how it would if it was any other week. But again, feed off the good vibes. For me it feels a little bit like going to Augusta every year. You get there, and it's just a place where you want to play golf. If it's a tournament or if it isn't a tournament, it's just a place where it starts to exude good feelings and good energy.

Q. You mentioned the changes on 16. Can you talk about how that might affect things? I know that was the last birdie you had Sunday of last year.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, for sure. I felt that was a pivotal birdie. I really wasn't looking at the leaderboards too closely last year, but I heard there was some cheers for a Ricky eagle because Rickie Fowler and Ricky Barnes were playing with one other. I figured it was Rickie Fowler. When I made my birdie I figured I was maybe 1 ahead, so 16 was a pivotal hole for me and it could be even more so this year. It could be for other reasons. I think 5 is more of an option now than it ever has been in the past with that hole.
It's going to be tricky. That's the one green being new, it's a little firmer than the rest, despite the rain, and there's going to be a little bit to think about on that tee, for sure.

Q. You won two big tournaments in five weeks last year. Have you been disappointed not winning since then?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I've been disappointed. I mean, I'm not trying to judge things -- obviously ultimately you always judge things by results, but I've been trying to do my best to look at a career, like a trend line. And I think I've made huge gains this year in a lot of other areas of my game. I'm second this year in greens in regulation, which is a stat that I've never really done well in the past. I'm seeing a lot of other tangible signs of improvement that haven't necessarily related to me being in the winner's circle.
I played a spell of golf through the Florida Swing and the Masters where if I would have been half decent on the greens I would have definitely won either Bay Hill, Transitions or Augusta.
So I'm playing beautifully. I put myself in position to have some good weeks like that, and it's just that little bit of making the right putt at the right time, which is what I manage to do in this stretch last year was make some putts, and that's what gets it done.

Q. When Jack was in here earlier he said the course is getting a little faster. With all the rain that they've had here, how fast do you think it can get?
JUSTIN ROSE: I mean, they have the opportunity here to make it as fast as they want around the greens. Certainly I think the SubAir -- I think the forecast is looking reasonable --

Q. More in the fairways then?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I don't think it's going to get ridiculously fast in the fairways. If they stop watering them it's going to get where the ball is rolling out, but still right now I can't see it getting out of control and being bouncy. But the rough is a little thicker this year because of that, so there's no need for the fairways to become too fast, I don't think, from that perspective.

Q. You mentioned the course could play a little bit faster this year. Two parts: One, is that more conducive to your game? And also, you mentioned the rough; how much of a prep for the U.S. Open is this tournament for you?
JUSTIN ROSE: Sure. I think with the course playing a little bit faster, I think that that makes generally the course tougher, so it's harder to get the ball close to the hole, which means we won't see as many birdies. I think last year the course was fairly soft and guys were going low. I think I was 18-under last year.
So if it's firm you might not see that number reached, which I think suits me. I kind of like to play a strategic game. I like the course to be tricky. I like to have to think on every shot and take your chances when they come and be conservative out there.
Which leading to the second part of your question is a great preparation for the U.S. Open. We all know that's a real week of patience, a week of grinding it out, and the rough is definitely thick enough right now where you need to keep the ball in play with a driver.
So the fairways here, what I love about this golf course is that you can hit the driver and you feel like it's not taken out of your hands, but if you do miss, you're going to be in trouble because you need so much control with your second shot into the greens around here. But no doubt it'll provide a good test.

Q. You obviously -- when you won two on the trot almost last year, does that change -- how does that change the way you approach things? Did you find yourself pushing harder or tending toward getting complacent?
JUSTIN ROSE: Um, you know, I try not to see it as either of those two things, but if I was going to lean one way it would be towards trying harder rather than getting complacent. I think that's possibly one of the worst things you can do in professional sport. I think that's almost as bad as a disease. That's bad for you.
But I think, yeah, I've just been trying to grow and get better as a player in all areas of my game and not try to focus heavily on the results, because sometimes, as I did last year, I was just focusing on the right things, and all of a sudden my run of form came. At any point you can turn an average year into a good year. I'm trying not to -- I'm trying to see the big picture, really.
I think I've seen a lot of -- I've seen a huge improvement in consistency. If you take 12 months from the end of -- let's say the end of AT&T to now, there's been a real upward trend in my consistency. I haven't won, but there's been other signs of improvement. I mean, I could look at it both ways. I'm disappointed not to have won, but I'm happy with the way my game is going.

Q. When AT&T was at Congressional you played pretty well there. Do you think that that's a good course for you to play a U.S. Open on?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, very much so. I mean, I'm looking forward to the U.S. Open coming up, and one of my biggest goals this year was to perform better in the majors. Last year, great year for me, two wins, et cetera, but I missed two cuts and didn't play in the other two majors, so really nothing to shout home about. Then this year I felt that that was the one area that I wanted to really change.
11th at Augusta, pretty happy with that, considering I was 5-over at one point on Friday. That was a good turnaround. But yeah, U.S. Open, Congressional, feel good about the venue.

Q. Other than simply the ball not going into the hole, what's been missing on the greens that maybe is starting to come around now?
JUSTIN ROSE: I'm still trying to find the coming around bit, to be honest with you. If I'm honest, I'm working hard at it. Putting is sort of a very -- it's confidence, I suppose it is, and it's a chicken and egg thing, what comes first, seeing the ball go in, or believing you're putting well and then seeing the ball go in. I'm just trying to be patient with it, and I believe I'm a good putter. I really do. Deep down I believe that's why I have high expectations in my putting. I know I can make a lot of putts, but I'm being a little bit streaky.
And right now I'm trying to find something I can simplify, a lot of thoughts going on at the moment, just try and boil it all down and pick the right one and things will be fine.
I remember at this tournament last year I was in the club building area changing grips on putters, had two or three options, didn't quite know which way I was going to go, and then obviously I chose the right option and putted great.
It really is -- it's that subtle sometimes.

Q. The World Ranking right now looks a little bit like 20-some years ago when Faldo and Woosnam and Lyle and all those guys in Europe started their domination. I wondered with you playing as much over here as you do, where do you see American golf right now with respect to maybe making a little bit of a rally and where it's going to come from and maybe one of the -- does maybe the depth of this Tour stand in the way of guys being able to establish themselves because it's so hard to win?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think that definitely that was about to be the point I was going to make is the depth over here really is amazing. If you look at the difficulty of courses and the cuts made score -- you've got to play good golf pretty much every week just to make it to the weekend, but then to win is very, very difficult. Guys don't go away really on Sundays. If you start the tournament -- if you start Sunday with a lead, you'd better go out and shoot 67, 68 to get it done because there's no walking over the finish line here. You've really got to sort of dip for the tape, so to speak, to get the job done. So it's very hard to win.
Yeah, World Ranking points, I think maybe 10 years ago there was a big bias toward World Ranking points here versus Europe, and now it's a little bit self-perpetuating in terms of the more Europeans up there in the World Rankings, the more points they then play for back home. In some ways it is easier to sustain that position and that ranking. No doubt the guys are playing the best golf right now, though.
Luke, his level of consistency is incredible. Thoroughly deserves to be world No. 1, was pleased for him last week. He's had three opportunities, I think, a playoff against Snedeker, then the final against Ian Poulter and then this playoff again. If he would have won any of those three he would have been world No. 1, so I was pleased with finally came around for him last week.
But it is staggering to see, whatever you call it, the presence of the Europeans so far in the top, whatever it is, seven or eight in the World Rankings, but there's no doubt there's plenty of -- the college system here provides great young talent, and I think with the Tiger kind of effect, I think you're going to see that come through the next few years, young kids who watched Tiger growing up who may have been seven, eight, nine, ten years of age, they're going to start coming through in the next few years.
American golf is always going to be strong, but the guys on Tour right now, your great players, you've got guys like Rickie Fowler who chased me down the stretch here or I chased him down the stretch, whichever way it was, I think he just plays the game with the right attitude, the right patience, the right charisma, so I think it's in good hands. There's many guys you could look at.
And obviously we'd all like to see Tiger make a comeback. I think that's good for the game. Surely that will happen. Obviously there's a lot going on right now with him, too. So it's just a bit of patience, I think, for American golf. But it will turn around.

Q. For the guys who play both tours, what's the biggest challenge? Travel would appear to be the biggest, but is there anything else that comes to mind that makes it hard to do both?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think you just don't -- sometimes you're not afforded the opportunity to play your favorite courses and really tailor the schedule to your game. I think the circumstances when you just have to play tournaments that you sometimes wouldn't choose because it's just a numbers game, you have to get so many in by this time of the year and therefore -- I try to focus heavily on the FedExCup before I then go to play some tournaments in Europe to make up my numbers.
I think that's probably the only change. I think traveling -- I think if you're traveling -- the difficulty is family, I think. Traveling with your family is very difficult when you're playing both tours. Therefore you're forced into a situation where you travel on your own a lot and don't see them much, whereas playing PGA TOUR I feel it's a great Tour -- I've got a two-and-a-half-year-old little boy, it's very easy to travel with him on this Tour, but virtually impossible on the European Tour, so I think that's a lifestyle thing that you face.

Q. Is traveling back from Wentworth easier for you guys because you have done it so often?
JUSTIN ROSE: You mean simply from a jet lag perspective? You know what, the last couple times I've flown to London with a five-hour time change from the East Coast I've found it really, really easy. I've slipped into the time zone very comfortably. Today I feel a little bit sluggish. I'm getting my second wind now.
But typically, yeah, I've always said it's easier flying this way, flying from the UK over here. But I think when you're talking about eight-hour time changes from LA to Europe, that's difficult. But the five-hour from the East Coast to London, that's really something that you can deal pretty easily with.
But saying that, the European Tour is not really based there, it's based in China and all these places where that's some serious jet lag, which is difficult, because obviously not only does it impact the first week, I think it impacts two or three weeks. If you take one trip, it can be like three weeks of body clock being slightly out.

Q. Back to what you were saying about putting, I know at Bay Hill, second nine, you putted with your eyes closed, and that obviously worked very well for you. Have you tried that since on the course?
JUSTIN ROSE: I haven't. Well, I haven't done sort of consistently. I've hit the odd putt with my eyes closed when the mood strikes me, but it is kind of sad to think my best putting has been with my eyes closed. But there is something to be said for that in terms of just boiling it down and keeping it simple. Putting is -- when you try too hard to make putts, it's like holding a bar of soap, the tighter you squeeze, the more lucid it becomes. I think that was a good lesson for me to realize the important things in putting aren't necessarily stroke, alignment, technique and more of the artistic seeing the ball going in the hole. So that's kind of the balance I'm trying to sort of find at the moment.

Q. You spoke earlier about confidence. Coming off a win last year, can you assess yourself and your chances of defending the title?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, sure. You know, coming into the tournament, don't necessarily have any great form to speak of, but I feel like I'm growing a little bit of momentum. I think that's important to come out of every week feeling like you've learned something and taking something that you can go with and make it better.
Last week I felt like I drove the ball much, much better than I have done recently in the last month or so, so I think that's something that could stand me in good stead this week, and just kind of really got a little bit clearer on some of my swing feels, which Sean Foley checked out this morning, and I think we're both really clear on where I'm going with that.
My short game is turning around, chipping, bunker play is feeling really, really sharp, so I think really the last little piece of the jigsaw puzzle is making a couple of putts. The good thing is that can turn around quickly.
So my chances are good, and it's going to be a matter of making putts. What better course to come to than this with the greens the way they are. If you roll the ball well here, you can get on a great run. It's not like you're putting on poa annua and if you feel good with your putting you can still miss putts. Here you're going to make putts.

Q. Just wondering if you had been seeing anything in Luke's game toward the end of last year or I guess even up to right before Match Play that indicated that he was in for this really consistent run.
JUSTIN ROSE: Just short game. You know, he's in every hole, especially match play. It's hard to play against a guy who never makes a mistakes. He makes mistakes, but he never compounds the error. He's always getting it up-and-down, or he's salvaging himself from a bad shot, and I think that's someone who's very difficult to compete against, and that's what's giving him the level of consistency right now. He's capitalizing on his good play and saving himself from the mistakes he's making, what a great combination. His short game is incredibly sharp, his wedge play is fantastic as we saw at Wentworth. And I think probably ten foot and in his putting is as good as anybody I've ever seen. I think we've seen Tiger have incredible runs of putting where ten feet and in he doesn't seem to miss.
Luke seems to be that way right now. I haven't watched a lot of golf. But every time I do see him over the ball, at least it looks like it's going to go in. He's obviously on a huge sort of high with confidence right now, and that's very good.

Q. Speak a little bit to this tournament with Jack's name involved. Last week Nelson, you've got Arnie. Talk about playing in a tournament so associated with the icons of golf and just what it means for you to play in this kind of tournament.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, sure. Obviously this tournament with Jack Nicklaus being involved, he's not just sort of a name on the tournament; he's here in person. You really feel his presence around the place. And for me last year, when I realized I was three ahead on the 18th green, first thing I did, I could let my sort of guard drop and I could enjoy the moment, first thing I did was look for Jack, just to sort of re-soak up the fact that I just won his tournament.
You know, it gives it that -- I think it just elevates it to being a very special tournament. This for me, when you get -- and another huge high for me was having the press conference here with Jack sitting here and just talking about the week and talking about the day and the game, and that was a very special moment. Like I said, it just really does elevate it and make it that much more special.

Q. Can you talk about No. 11, the par-5, 567 yards, from tee to green I wondered if you might just kind of give us what your approach or strategy would be on that, and then the second one would be 16, the par-3.
JUSTIN ROSE: Okay, yeah. I call the 11th hole, the par-5, a chain reaction hole, meaning that if you miss the fairway off the tee you're faced with all sorts of problems. There's a ditch that runs across the fairway, and if you miss the fairway off the tee, you really struggle to carry that ditch with your second shot. So you're then forced into having to lay up and hit 3-iron or something of that nature for your third shot. So that's what happens if you miss the tee.
Therefore, I tend to play that hole very conservatively. I think last year I hit a 3-wood or 5-wood off that tee every day, hit it into the widest part of the fairway, laid up with about a 4- or 5-iron and then hit a wedge into the green. So I play that hole as a true three-shot hole. For me that's the best way of, one, keeping yourself out of trouble, but two, still giving yourself good looks at birdie.
And then the 16th hole, I think that's really going to cause -- that's going to cause some problems for the players this year. It's a really, really good hole. You've definitely got to turn a little shot right to left in there. The green is designed in a way that if you hit the perfect shot, you do get a little bit of help with the slope into the back left-hand corner. I would imagine we're going to play the tee up one or two days for sure. And I think, yeah, really, really good hole.
MARK STEVENS: Thanks a lot, Justin. Good luck defending this year.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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