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Rose chasing golf’s rare championship ‘two-fer’
But the Englishman already has someone in mind: Garry Harvey, the silversmith who will engrave the name of British Open winner on the claret jug within moments of the final putt dropping Sunday at Muirfield.
It would be hard to come up with a better finish to what’s already been an eventful few weeks for Rose. Since capturing his first major, he’s dined with Prime Minister David Cameron, signed hundreds of autographs and watched from the Royal Box as countryman Andy Murray captured the Wimbledon men’s singles final.
And just like Murray, who won the U.S. Open last fall, Rose would love to possess both trophies at the same time, a feat only six golfers _ all among the game’s greats _ have accomplished in the century-plus history of major championship golf. The roster of that exclusive club speaks to just how tough a task it is: Bobby Jones (twice; 1926 and 1930); Gene Sarazen (1932); Ben Hogan (1953); Lee Trevino (1971); Tom Watson (1982); and Tiger Woods (2000).
“The challenge for me is going to be staying in this tournament, not being dragged back to Merion every five minutes,” Rose said.
“If I’m left alone, just me and my caddie, it’s pretty easy to focus on what I need to focus on. It’s when you have the outside distractions that prevents you from doing that. But when you’re playing a tournament, you’re in a controlled environment and it’s business as usual.”
Rose acknowledged there were only so many similarities from a visual standpoint between the rain-soaked Merion course, located in suburban Philadelphia, and surprisingly dry Murfield, a seaside links course on Scotland’s eastern coastline.
“They’re polar opposite in the sense of how the ball is reacting on the ground, but they’re in the sense of strategy. At Merion, I hit a lot of irons off the tee. I played defensively, sort of conservatively, and I felt that was the best way to approach it. … I was lucky that my game plan turned out to be exactly the right one, with 1-over par winning. That’s my challenge this week, to see the golf course the right way and set a game plan that not only keeps me out of trouble,” he added, “but is aggressive enough to make the most of the opportunities when they come around.
“So I think for me,” Rose summed up, “it’s going to be quite a cautious game plan off the tee.”
He grew up playing links courses, and nearly set the golf world on its ear by contending at the 1998 British Open as a 17-year-old amateur before slipping back to fourth place.
But Rose’s win at the U.S. Open was the first by an Englishman at the tournament since Tony Jacklin in 1970, and it became such a symbol of national pride that it was one of the first things Cameron mentioned when he sat down with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland recently.
“I see a British golfer has just won the United States Open,” Cameron needled his golf-loving fellow chief executive.
The win also promoted Rose to the head of the class of a generation of promising countrymen _ Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, among others _ still in search of a first major win.
“I think it probably makes them even more determined, even more hungry to do it,” he said. “I’m sure the boys are looking at it and thinking, `OK, my turn could be around the corner and just got to persevere.”
But they’ll have to get by Rose first.
Aside from the occasional celebrity appearance, he’s taken the three weeks off, hauling along the U.S. Open trophy to show family and friends and “getting my hunger back.” Asked whether the time away from the game might have cost him some sharpness, Rose smiled.
“I’m going to need that time if I’m going to get into contention and have a chance to win on Sunday. That’s when the freshness and the break will serve me well. Obviously,” he said, “getting there is going to be the hard part.”
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