Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
When the time came in 2016 for the twenty-year wait for an English winner of The Masters to be ended, it was, in truth, a spectacular shock that it was Danny Willett who provided the fourth Masters victory for that nation. Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Paul Casey have all been in contention for the title on Masters Sunday over the last decade, but none have come so close as Justin Rose to donning the Green Jacket. In April 2017 the 2013 US Open Champion and 2016 Olympic Gold Medallist was a putt away from winning his second major, before agonizingly losing out to friend and European Ryder Cup teammate, Sergio Garcia in a playoff.
The defeat took Rose some time to get over, but in the autumn his season went from consistent to spectacular. At the WGC-HSBC Champions he surged to a record-breaking comeback over the world number one Dustin Johnson. Rose shot a final round 67 to in part erase the deficit to Johnson. But the world number one crashed and burned with a 77 and the title was Rose’s, a second World Golf Championship of his now stellar career.
Then just 7 days later he clinched the Turkish Airlines Open title with a birdie on the 72nd hole, pushing him into serious contention for the Race to Dubai title. In Dubai he took the race to the final hole, narrowly missing out to Tommy Fleetwood, and finishing in the top ten rather than the top four which would have secured his second European Tour Order of Merit.
In the final event of 2017 Rose led from wire-to-wire in Indonesia and claimed his third title in the final two and a half months of the year. He finished the year like a steam train, and nobody can lay claim to be a more in-form player than him as we started 2018. His hot form, coupled with his outstanding record at Augusta surely make him the favourite coming into the season’s first major. Aside from his playoff defeat in 2017, Rose has shown a flair for playing great golf around the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.
In 12 appearances he has never missed a cut, finishing in the top ten on five occasions.
Rose is a potential Masters Champion in the mould of the typical winner, he has gained experience, had the knocks and played well in patches during tournaments since making his debut in 2003.
He has started well and finished strong, but it was only in 2017 that he kept it going from start to finish, only being beaten by inspirational play from the mercurial Spaniard. Sergio Garcia was the fans favourite heading into the final round. But the critics and history dictated that Justin Rose was the favourite having broken his major duck 4 years previously.
The European Ryder Cup heroes were tied through 54 holes and Garcia made the early move with a birdie at the first, and a second birdie at the third, coupled with a bogey from Rose at the fifth gave Garcia a commanding three-shot lead. Was this to be the day that Sergio finally won his first Major title? The Englishman had other thoughts. Rose bounced back brilliantly with birdies at the sixth, seventh and eighth holes to tie the lead through nine holes at 8-under-par.
Then the see-saw battle took another twist, as Garcia bogeyed the tenth and eleventh to give Rose a two-stroke lead, this amazing final round had seen a five-stroke swing over the course of six holes. The former World Number Two then bounced back with a spectacular birdie at the par-four fourteenth hole, before the pair took the drama to the next level at the par-five fifteenth. Rose made birdie, while Garcia’s second shot thrilled the galleries as it glanced the flag, setting up a stunning eagle to tie the lead at 9-under-par.
Rose then rekindled memories of Faldo and Willett with a crucial birdie at the 16th to edge ahead once more. But a bogey at the 17th saw the Englishman fall back to 9-under-par and the pair headed to the 72nd hole tied for the lead, setting up a grandstand finish. Rose missed a seven-footer for birdie, while García missed a five-foot putt to win the championship, forcing a sudden-death playoff. Beginning the sudden-death playoff at the par-4 18th, Rose’s drive found the trees and he was forced to chip out. García’s drive found the fairway and he hit his approach to 12 feet, while Rose was 14 feet away for par.
Rose missed the putt, giving García two putts to win the championship, but he converted the birdie to win his first career major championship. Garcia had won a compelling final round duel between two of Europe’s greatest and most popular golfers. That defeat will surely be the fire that burns inside Rose, and with his twenty plus years of experience in Major Championship golf, and unquestionable talent Rose will undoubtedly slip into the Green Jacket sooner or later.
In the 2018 Masters he finished in a tie for 12th, a solid performance to launch a run to World Number One. A win at the venerable Colonial Country Club in the Fort Worth Invitational, allied to runner-up finishes at the 147th Open Championship, at Carnoustie, and the Dell Technologies Championship and BMW Championship saw Rose ascend to the summit of the world game in September.
A successful defence of the Turkish Airlines Open and victory in this January’s Farmers Insurance Open ensured he maintained the position as World Number One. Rose’s remarkable consistency over the last three years has allowed him to plan his schedule around the Majors, and so far he has played just six tournaments in 2019.
This means the Englishman will be fresh and rested going into the year’s first Major, and this could be crucial when we get to the back nine on Sunday. A winner of Silver at the 2013 US Open at Merion, where he held off a charging Phil Mickelson to claim an emotional first Major title.
A winner of Gold at the historic 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where he duelled with The Open Champion Henrik Stenson in the final round.
He has won 20 tournaments across six continents, and now is as good a time as ever to go from Silver, to Gold, to Green.
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