Rose must forget Merion to join elite club

Justin Rose has six top-10 finishes this season on the PGA Tour.

Justin Rose has six top-10 finishes this season on the PGA Tour.

GULLANE, Scotland – Only six players have won the U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same season.

Can Justin Rose become the seventh?

For the record, those men are Bobby Jones (1926 and ’30), Gene Sarazen (’32), Ben Hogan (’53), Lee Trevino (’71), Tom Watson (’82) and Tiger Woods (2000).

Rose enters the championship as a strong contender to add the Open Championship to the U.S. Open title that he won at Merion last month. British bookmakers William Hill have him at 18-1 odds, the third favorite behind Woods and Phil Mickelson.

The problem is, Rose’s record in his home Open is nothing to write home about. The Englishman first burst onto the international scene in 1998 as a 17-year-old, when he holed a pitch shot onto Royal Birkdale’s 18th green to finish fourth. That remains his best finish in the game’s oldest major.

“If you look at my results, they’re not very good in this tournament,” Rose conceded. “The reality is a little better than that. I felt that 2009 at Turnberry I had a good chance to win there. (He was 13th.) Just nothing went my way on Sunday.

“This tournament in 2002, I was tied third going into the last round. (He eventually finished joint 22nd.) Obviously I was just a little bit young and needed a lot more experience under my belt. Given that sort of similar situation this year, that’s a situation I’d once again relish. So I’ve put myself in some better positions than my results card sort of says.”

Rose turned professional after his Birkdale experience and began his European Tour career with 21 consecutive missed cuts. In the past few years, he has become a strong contender to win majors.

“I’ve been a pro for 15 years, so I have waited a long time to win my first major,” Rose said. “On the other hand, I feel like I’ve won it quite quickly in the sense that I’ve only felt ready to win a major the last couple of years.

“So I feel very grateful to have that monkey off my back, with a long time ahead of me in the game and still hopefully at my best.”

Whether he’ll be at his best this week remains to be seen. Rose hasn’t played since winning at Merion.

“The challenge for me is going to be staying in this tournament, not being dragged back to Merion every five minutes.”

Despite his poor showing in this championship, Rose is one of a select group in the field who grew up playing links golf. He played the 1998 Amateur Championship here, and the 2002 Open Championship he often talks about. He and pal Ian Poulter turned up in an Austin Powers-themed Jag nicknamed the, ahem, Shaguar.

Rose sets out to try to win on a golf course that, on the outside at least, couldn’t be more dissimilar than Merion.

“I definitely thought it was going to be very, very similar to Merion, but the fact that it’s going to be a dust bowl out there might change it a little bit,” Rose said. “I don’t know how it’s going to impact on scoring yet, but you’re going to have to keep the ball out of trouble, which is exactly what you had to do at Merion.

“I do feel comfortable on links golf. Having grown up having played so much in the amateur game, you know how to play it. The yardage book means very little this week. I think only experience can really help you through that. I see no reason why I shouldn’t do well here.”

If he can put Merion out of his mind, Rose might join a very select club.

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