- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2014

Justin Rose hesitated for a moment as he strolled toward the clubhouse at Congressional Country Club after finishing his second round on Friday.

There, in a plastic case, was the Claret Jug, the iconic trophy handed to the winner of the British Open. Rose couldn’t help marveling at its shimmer.

“When you walk past a major championship trophy, you dream about what it would be like, and I’ve been lucky enough to feel it once,” said Rose, who won the U.S. Open last year. “Your home Open, for example – you see it, and it does sort of give you goosebumps. As a kid, you dream about it so much, but now, walking past it, you know it’s somewhat of a reality and you do have a chance to pick that thing up.”

Rose has already qualified to play in the British Open next month at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in his native England, so his performance at this week’s Quicken Loans National is, from a technical standpoint, largely irrelevant.

Yet after shooting a 6-under-par 65 on Friday, the lowest score achieved by a player in the morning group, Rose couldn’t help but think about what a strong finish this weekend could do for his confidence over the next three weeks.

“I’m obviously here to play well this week, but The Open is definitely on my mind,” Rose said. “I felt like I had a slightly slower start to the year than I would have liked, but I feel like I’m running into some good form, playing well at the U.S. Open and hopefully playing well this week.”

Rose won the Quicken Loans National in 2010, when it was held at Aronimink Golf Club in suburban Philadelphia and was known as the AT&T National. His performances at Congressional have been nothing sensational; he tied for 16th in the event in 2009, missed the cut when the U.S. Open was held on the course in 2011 and was forced to withdraw last year because of injury.

Even his first round was lackluster; on Thursday, Rose had four bogeys on the front nine, sending his approach into the water on the par-5 6th and missing a six-foot par putt on the par-4 8th.

Friday, then, was different. Rose hit 10 of 14 fairways, the same as Thursday, but attempted eight fewer putts. He believed his driving helped him, even though his irons were off, and the breeze that made the course more challenging during the first round was nonexistent.

Three players shot a 66 on Friday – Marc Leishman and Oliver Goss, who entered the clubhouse tied for the lead at 6-under, as well as Brendan Steele. Morgan Hoffmann shot a 3-under 68 to move to 4-under, pulling even with Freddie Jacobson, who shot even par in his second round.

Greg Chalmers, the first-round leader, was scheduled to be in the last group off the 10th tee. Tiger Woods, who shot 3-over in his first tournament since undergoing back surgery in March, also faced an afternoon start.

With the cut projected at 2-over entering the afternoon session, Rose virtually ensured he’ll be playing through the weekend. After then, he can take two weeks to prepare for his country’s championship.

“Obviously, for me, it’s a great start,” Rose said. “Two days left. This is my kind of golf course, I feel. I like this type of golf. It offers you the opportunity to go low if you play really well, but par is still a good score, so I like that balance.”