You won’t see Justin Rose throwing his ball to his caddie anymore – unless it’s a short toss when they’re both on the green.
The reigning U.S. Open champion got a late start on this season because of a lingering right shoulder injury that happened in late August at the Barclays. Rose was on the green and threw his ball “60 or 70 yards” back down the fairway to his caddie to clean before he putted.
“That was the moment where I felt I did something,” Rose said. “I managed to play my way through the rest of the round and the rest of the week,” he said. “Actually I nearly won the tournament there, and it settled down quite quickly. But it started to flare up from that point on the rest of the year.”
He had only played three times before the WGC-Cadillac Championship in early March, which started his run to the Masters.
At that time, Rose still had to take it easy and couldn’t hit many balls for fear of re-aggravating the shoulder.
“So basically just calming inflammation down out of my shoulder,” Rose said. “That’s really it. It’s just tendonitis; so the tendon just gets angry if you do too much.”
Rose had won 10 times worldwide (including four times on the PGA Tour ) before winning his first major at the U.S. Open. Now he comes to Augusta without the pressure of trying to win his first major here.
“I think when I first won on the PGA Tour back in 2010, it was a big relief to me to not every time I get into contention, not face the questions, ‘Is this going to be the first time, is this going to be the week?’ And you have to deal with that, and obviously every player has to go through that, but it’s nice to not have to think that way anymore. It’s nice to know that you have a lot of positive experiences on which to draw and if you get yourself into contention and you know what’s worked for you and you know what your game plan is and you know what your strategy is. It’s a matter of going out and doing it.
“It doesn’t make it always any easier to go out and do, but it’s one thing off your plate rather than try and surmise and guess what you should be playing or what you should be thinking,” he said. “At least you have sort of a track record.”
The Masters comes eight months since the last major – the PGA Championship. The spacing is fine with Rose, who found it “difficult” to prepare for the British Open four weeks after winning the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club. He ended up shooting 75-77 at Muirfield and missed the cut.
“The majors come around so quickly that when you win one, it’s just shown me how impressive it is for some guys who have competed week after week, how impressive that is to win it, deal with everything that comes along with winning it, keep your preparation, keep your practice going and keep your mind‑set going, especially in the summer,” he said.
Of the four majors, the Masters is spaced out more than the others. And after the Masters, players have two months to prepare for the U.S. Open compared to only one month for the remaining two majors.
“I feel like if you win Augusta, you have a few months to really get rid of that feeling,” Rose said about preparing for the other majors. “But June, July, August come around so fast that I think, should I put myself in position to win another one this year, I’ll understand what I should and what I shouldn’t do immediately afterwards and what I’m going to have to do to keep my head in a good position to compete in the upcoming majors because it’s a very condensed time of year.”
He hates to think about giving up the U.S. Open trophy when he defends his title at Pinehurst No. 2.
“I still catch myself smiling at home when I see the trophy, and you know, you get very comfortable with it in your house,” Rose said. “The thought of losing it makes you want to prepare harder for the U.S. Open again this year.”
Rose said his two-shot win at Merion keeps his career trajectory heading in the right direction.
“It kept me on what I said was a trend of winning bigger and bigger tournaments,” Rose said. “I felt lucky to win a couple of really good, well‑thought‑of PGA Tour events and then I went and won a playoff event and then won a World Golf Championships (before he won the U.S. Open).
“So the pecking order – the trend and the progression was getting bigger and bigger and it really only left a major. So my story to myself was the next one is a major, working my way up the ladder. So I’m kind of glad it turned out that way.”