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It's just in time for Justin's time

By Chuah Choo Chiang | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-07 10:41
Justin Rose hits his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship golf tournament at TPC of Boston in Norton, USA, Sep 3, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Golf writers the world over have enjoyed watching Justin Rose ever since he was a 17-year-old amateur and sensationally holed out from the rough on the final hole to finish a fairytale fourth at the 1998 British Open.

From that miraculous finish to his 21 straight missed cuts immediately after turning professional, Rose has blossomed - forgive the pun - into one of the game's golden icons.

Now Asian fans are awaiting in earnest for his title defense at next month's World Golf Championships - HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.

In an era with Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth leading a new generation of twentysomethings threatening to dominate the game, Rose, now a ripe 38 years of age, has proven time and again he has the will and skill to thrill fans.

Currently ranked No 4 in the world, Rose is the reigning Olympic Games gold medal winner, a major champion, holder of 11 victories on the European Tour and nine on the PGA Tour - including two World Golf Championships.

Not only is Rose a fine gentleman and ferocious golfer, he is exceedingly generous. Along with his wife Kate, their foundation - the Kate and Justin Rose Foundation - focuses on improving children's lives by providing nutritional support, education and positive life experiences for kids.

With the PGA Tour's season entering its climax with the FedExCup Playoffs concluding this month, Rose must be feeling the good vibes again.

In 26 starts around the world since last September, he has won four times (in China, Turkey, Indonesia and the United States), finished among the top 10 in 15 other tournaments and has missed just one cut.

His triumph at last year's WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan was majestic. Starting the final round eight strokes back of world No 1 Dustin Johnson and with a simple goal of trying to finish in second place, Rose produced one of the rounds of his life to win the showpiece event by two shots after closing with a 5-under 67.

"Whenever you beat the top players in the world, that gives a tournament victory so much more meaning, and obviously with a leaderboard like we had with Dustin, Brooks (Koepka) and (Henrik) Stenson, I take a lot of pride in winning this tournament," Rose said afterwards.

"And winning in China, to travel and to take your game internationally I think is something that's very important. Obviously China is a very important golf nation, a growing golf nation, so it's very important to win in front of these fans."

Rose's victory certainly added luster to the tournament's honor roll. Past WGCHSBC Champions include major winners Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Y.E. Yang, Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari.

Another stellar field of champions will once again feature in this year's edition of Asia's richest tournament, which is offering a record prize pool of $10 million.

Since its debut in 2005, the Sheshan tournament has drawn rave reviews. Mickelson, who won it in 2007 and 2009, said: "The fans in China are like nowhere else in the world in terms of their energy and enthusiasm."

Rose is determined to become the first player to successfully defend in Shanghai, especially after stating his goal is to become world No 1 at some point in his illustrious career.

"The confidence I gained from coming from eight shots back against such a world-class field really helped me finish off last year on a high and I have kept the momentum going ever since. I will feel very proud to stand on the first tee at Sheshan and be announced as the defending champion," he said.

"I want to get to world No 1 by winning tournaments. There could be opportunities in the next six months. I could get there by finishing seventh somewhere because there's always permutations, but I want to get to world No 1 by winning, and that keeps my goal simple.

"I've got maybe four or five more years to really make the most of my career, to really put a nice little cherry on top of it.

"And the standard is improving out here. It's very competitive, it's very hard to forge your way into the top five in the world right now with how many wins these young players are racking up.

"Obviously we saw periods where Tiger Woods would win five, six, seven, eight tournaments a year, but you're now getting to four or five guys having multiple win seasons. That's the type of level you have to play at."

That's exactly the kind of golfer Justin Rose has become since emerging onto the scene as a skinny freckled-faced teenager.

The author is senior director of communications for the PGA Tour and is based at TPC Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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