KUALA LUMPUR: Headline writers all over the world have enjoyed a field day since Justin Rose sensationally holed out from the rough on the 72nd hole as a 17-year-old amateur to finish a fairy-tale fourth at The Open Championship in 1998.
From that grand-stand high finish to his 21 successive missed cuts immediately after turning professional, Rose has indeed blossomed - forgive the pun - into one of England’s golden sons that Asian fans are awaiting in earnest for his title defence at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions come October.
In the age where a new generation of 20-somethings such as Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeaui and Jordan Spieth are threatening to dominate the game, Rose, who is now a ripe 37 years of age, has proven time and again that he has the will and skill to thrill fans.
Currently ranked No. 4 on planet golf, 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, which includes two World Golf Championships.
Not only is Rose a fine gentleman and ferocious golfer, he is generous at heart too where along with his wife Kate, their foundation - the Kate and Justin Rose Foundation – focuses on improving children’s lives by providing nutritional support, funding education and providing ‘first exposure’ positive life experiences to kids.
With the PGA TOUR’s 2017-18 Season entering its climax with the FedExCup Playoffs concluding in September, Rose must be feeling the good vibes again as it was exactly a year ago that the Englishman’s stock rose dramatically.
In 26 starts around the world, he has won four times in China, Turkey, Indonesia and America, finished top-10 in 15 other tournaments and check this out … he has missed just one cut during that red-hot spell which began last September.
His triumph at last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club was majestic. Starting the final round eight back of World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and with a simple goal of trying to finish in second place, Rose produced one the rounds of his life to win the showpiece event by two shots following a closing five-under-par 67 under blustery conditions.
“… WGCs, 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 today with Dustin, Brooks (Koepka) and (Henrik) Stenson, I take a lot of pride in winning this tournament,” said Rose.
“And winning in China, to travel and to take your game internationally I think is something that's very important to do. Obviously China is a very important golf nation, and a growing golf nation, so it's very important to win in front of these fans.”
“The confidence I gained from coming from eight shots back in such a big tournament 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.”
Rose’s glorious victory certainly added shine onto the tournament’s roll of honour as past WGC-HSBC 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 are tipped to head full speed to the Far East once again and feature in Asia’s richest golf tournament, which will offer a record US$10 million from October 25 to 28.
Since its debut in 2005, the Who’s Who of world golf have teed up at Sheshan and all have spoken highly of the WGC-HSBC Champions. Mickelson, who won the tournament in 2007 and 2009, said: “The fans in China are like nowhere else in the world in terms of their energy and enthusiasm.” The left-handed superstar has also referred the tournament as “Asia’s Major.”
Rose is determined to become the first player to successfully defend in Shanghai, especially when he has stated his ambition of becoming World No. 1 at some point in his illustrious career.
“I want to get to world No. 1 by winning golf tournaments. There could be opportunities in the next six months. I could get there by finishing seventh somewhere because there's always permutations. I want to get to world No. 1 by winning, and that keeps my goal simple,” he said.
“I've got maybe three, four, five more years to really make the most of my career, to really put a nice little cherry on top of my career. 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 of time where Tiger would win five, six, seven, eight 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.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the type of golfer Justin Rose has become since emerging onto the scene as a skinny and freckled-face teenager.
Chuah Choo Chiang is senior director, communications for the PGA TOUR and is based at TPC Kuala Lumpur