BELEK, TURKEY | A year ago, and just back from the gym, Justin Rose rushed into his house adjoining the azure waters of the Bahamas to answer the phone to an inquisitive reporter. He was asked to assess his year in which he had won tournaments on both sides of the Atlantic, pocketed $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup, earned two points from a possible four in Europe’s winning Ryder Cup performance and become the fourth Englishman to rise to world No 1.
“To have won the FedEx Cup for a season-long race is quite something,” Rose said. “And to get to world No 1 is clearly an achievement that is more than playing well for a week or two. Both achievements gave me great satisfaction because they reflected the large body of work and high level of work that I have been playing for the best part of 15 or 16 months now.”
Roll on a year and Rose was at the Turkish Airlines Open, which he had won the two previous years, when the same reporter asked him to assess his year, one in which he won a tournament on the PGA Tour, featured strongly in the US Open, where he finished third, but no better than 20th in the remaining major championships.
“This year has been a struggle,” Rose replied. “This year it hasn’t gone the way I would have liked. In 2017 and 2018 my consistency was unbelievable and sometimes when you’re in that sort of performance mode you are not forced to look too inward. I just cruised. Because it was coming quite easy you potentially take your eye off the ball a bit. I feel I have maybe stalled out this year. I haven’t had the success I would like.”
There were some obvious reasons as to why. In signing to use Honma clubs, he might have suffered the curse of the rich and become far from the first golfer to suffer a dip in form after changing the make of his golf clubs. And in 2019 he ended his 11-year partnership with Mark “Fooch” Fulcher, his caddie.
Then there is the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated parts of the Bahamas, though not Albany, where Rose lives as does the singer Justin Timberlake. He is thinking now of how he can best help those fellow islanders who lost their homes in the hurricane, thereby giving a fine example of how generous golfers are in giving time and money to those in need.
“If I was half on my game I reckon I would have won that tournament going away.”
- Justin Rose
“We have raised $1 million for kids in Orlando this year through our Birdies for Blessings charity so now we are going to turn the attentions of our fundraiser in December to Hurricane Dorian relief efforts,” Rose said.
“We are looking at projects to fund right now. There is a children’s home in Grand Bahama that is a potential project. We are looking at rebuilding that. We might partner with One Bahamas, which is a fund created at Albany, which is where I live, and Tiger (Woods) and Justin Timberlake, all members have all contributed to this fund. So whatever we raise that fund may match us 50-50 to go in and maybe rebuild a children’s home.” (Woods and Timberlake have set up the One Bahamas Fund to help rebuild the islands.)
In 2018 Rose had 25 top-10s out of 33 starts. To date in 2019 it has been 11 out of 31 starts. The fault has not been his putting, as it might well have been because compared to the rest of his game this is a weaker part. In the US Open at Pebble Beach he one-putted 31 of his first 48 greens.
“Pebble was a huge opportunity,” he said. “If I was half on my game I reckon I would have won that tournament going away.”
Oddly for a golfer who is generally known for crisp ballstriking and regal iron play, it was his ballstriking that was poor in 2019 leading him to have inconsistent rounds such as those last week in Turkey – two 67s followed by a 73. “I have swung it poorly. The club is out of position coming into impact so I’ve got a two-way miss. Golf-wise, I haven’t found the time to work at my game away from tournaments as much as I would like. I feel like I have been fixing it on the road, which has proved really, really tough. When you are on the road you are looking for a quick fix and I have got away from some principles maybe. What I’ve had this year hasn’t been what I’ve had in the past couple of seasons.”
In 2018 Rose said that 2019 was a big year because he wanted it to set him up for an even bigger year in 2020 when there is a Ryder Cup and an Olympic Games. Barring a miraculous loss of form or injury, Rose will be an important member of Europe’s Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits in September. He and Paul Casey currently lead the race to be included in Team Great Britain for the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
“Next year is obviously the year that offers huge opportunities so in some ways I like this year because it has been a wake-up call and if that can set up a great 2020 it has served its purpose,” Rose said.
Then he paused and added with a slight smile:
“Or, if you want to put it this way, it has been a kick up the arse.”