Justin Rose insists he has got rid of the demons from last season’s Masters Tournament play-off heartbreak and feels confident he can this week claim the win that would make his career “special”.
Rose finished second to Jordan Spieth at Augusta National in 2015, secured a top ten the following year and then lost out to Sergio Garcia on the first extra hole as the Spaniard claimed his long-awaited first Major Championship 12 months ago.
The Englishman admits he suffered something of a hangover from that near-miss but he has found some brilliant form since the autumn, winning the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and finishing in the top five at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai to finish second in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.
That impressive run means he arrives in Georgia as one of the favourites to win the Green Jacket and he believes a recent stroll around the grounds has helped him banish any lingering negativity from last year’s runner-up finish.
“I always just love being up here and you always do tend to learn a thing or two,” he said. “For me last year after losing in the play-off, it was important just to come and walk the grounds. Clearly you’re going to go through memories and shots you hit and shots that didn’t come off. So I just wanted to have that walk before tournament week.
“I really have positive and fond memories of last year. I hit a lot of great shots. I don’t feel like it was a tournament that anybody lost, really. It was great to be a part of a Sunday exciting back nine with birdies and eagles. It was just one of those situations where one guy was going to lose.
“I don’t feel bad about it whatsoever but still, clearly, whenever you lose a play-off in a Major, it’s one of those moments that you look back on and think what might have been.
“The golf course doesn’t recognise what happened last year. There’s not a blade of grass that’s here that was here last year. I’m coming in with high confidence but also low expectation, in the sense that I can’t control so many variables that are going to be out there this week.
“My skill-set should produce a chance to win if all goes well.
“Not worried about the other players or the other variables. I’m coming in playing as good as I’ve ever played, so I’m excited about that.”
The golf course doesn’t recognise what happened last year. There’s not a blade of grass that’s here that was here last year – Justin Rose
If Rose were to retire tomorrow, he would have a career that stands up to the test of time with a Major victory at the 2013 US Open, an Olympic Gold Medal in 2016 and the 2007 Harry Vardon Trophy for being Europe’s Number One.
But he has often stressed his desire to be a multiple Major winner and he knows, at the age of 37, the next five or ten years will decide where he is placed in the list of golf’s greatest champions.
“(Caddie) Fooch asked me a great question last year during the practice round walking down 10. He said, if you had the opportunity to wipe the slate clean with all you achieved in the game and have another crack at it, would you do it?
“There were a few years I potentially underachieved but, given how talented players are who never breakthrough in Majors, I’m not sure I would just throw that all away and say, right, okay, I’m going to go again.
“I’ve won at the highest level, I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. But I think how I’m going to be remembered in the game is really about what happens from here onwards. If I go on to achieve some other really big championships, Major Championships, then my career certainly becomes more a special career than a great career.”