Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson close as silver and gold at PGA Tour's Zurich Classic

Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson-PGA Tour-Zurich Open Getty Images

Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson close as silver and gold at PGA Tour's Zurich Classic

PGA Tour

Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson close as silver and gold at PGA Tour's Zurich Classic

AVONDALE, La. – There are 80 teams assembled here at the PGA Tour’s new-look Zurich Classic of New Orleans, including Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.

There are old college roommates playing together, former college teammates pairing up, countrymen joining forces, even a pair of brothers (Brooks and Chase Koepka) formulating a team. There are a few tandems who don’t even know each other all that well, but they will try in earnest to figure it out at breezy TPC New Orleans in the days ahead, where each winning team member will receive a trophy, a seven-figure payday and a two-year exemption.

Where do Stenson and Rose fit in? They are two heavy medal rockers. Few teams, if any, are as tried and tested as this one. They have performed shoulder to shoulder in the most intense heat, helping to deliver a Ryder Cup to Europe as partners at Scotland’s Gleneagles in the autumn of 2014. They once resided just 50 yards apart in the gated Lake Nona community of Orlando. Their kids play together. Their caddies and wives are friendly.

And side by side, the two are so comfortable that they could deliver an Abbott & Costello act, complete with timely rimshots.

So, who was it who stepped forward to ask the other to be his partner at the Zurich this week?

“It was Justin,” offered Stenson. “He just can’t live without me.”

Justin Rose-Olympics-Zurich Open-PGA Tour

Justin Rose closed with birdie and 67 to win the 2016 gold medal in golf at the Olympics. (Getty Images)

They are the only twosome in the field that brought Olympic medals with them to New Orleans this week. Rose, the Englishman who nearly walked away with the Masters earlier this month, forgot his gold medal in his hotel room Wednesday morning, unfortunately. So Stenson, seated next to him, refused to remove his silver medal from his pocket.

Stenson: “I’m not going to show off a silver when there is no gold around.”

Rose: “Actually, now IS the time to show off a silver, when there’s no gold around.”

Ba-dum-pum. But all jokes aside, these two cannot help but be a most formidable pair when the tournament begins on Thursday morning with the tougher of the two formats being used, foursomes, or alternate-shot.

“Yeah, that’s going to be interesting to see Rose and Stenson play, only because they’ve played in the Ryder Cups together,” said Jason Day, who landed a pretty nice partner himself in Rickie Fowler. “They know how each other’s games work.”

The foursomes, or alternate-shot format, can quickly expose the true chemistry of a team, unlike a better-ball format, when each player can put his head down like any other afternoon on Tour and simply see how many birdies he can pile up on his own.

At Gleneagles in 2014, Europe rolled to its third consecutive Ryder Cup title (and sixth in seven matches), largely in part to the dominant team showing of Rose and Stenson. The two were ranked fifth and sixth in the world at the time, and aligned they formed an unbeatable beast.

Henrik Stenson-PGA-Ryder Cup-Zurich Open

Henrik Stenson played a major role in Europe’s 2014 Ryder Cup victory at Gleneagles in Scotland. (Getty Images)

Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson made nine birdies against them in that Day 2 four-ball match, and never even made it to the 17th tee. Rose and Stenson had gone on an amazing run in which they birdied 10 consecutive holes, winning 3 and 2.

”It’s hard to reflect on it when you’re playing,” Stenson would say that afternoon, “but 21 birdies in 16 holes between us, that’s something special. It might be a highlight to put on the big screen with the grandkids one day.”

Rose had paired previously with Ian Poulter, and Stenson had played alongside five different partners in his first two matches, in 2006 and 2008. European captain Paul McGinley, a true mastermind, had an airtight plan when he put the two together.

“The feedback I got from Paul,” Rose said Wednesday, “was that he really felt I would be at my best standing alongside another really great player. You know, he just felt that that was the way I was going to bring out my best … I don’t know how he gauged that.”

Rose, 37, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, was in terrific form in Augusta at the Masters earlier this month, earning a spot in a playoff alongside eventual champion Sergio Garcia. He retreated to his place in the Bahamas after the tournament, briefly shaken by such a close call, realizing at one point along that back nine on Sunday, the tournament was in his grip.

Justin Rose believes he let an opportunity to win the Masters slip away earlier this month. (Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s an opportunity that I feel like … certainly one that got away,” Rose said. “I felt it was mine at points on the back nine. But really, I sleep well every night. I’m absolutely fine. I feel like Augusta is the one major where the fact that we go back there year on year, you can build on that performance, and you can build on that experience.”

Stenson, who turned 41 this month, is coming off the second-best year of his career, one that delivered his first major title, the Open Championship at Royal Troon, where his Sunday duel with Phil Mickelson – Stenson shot 63 to Mickelson’s 65 – shined as the best golf of the entire season, a modern-day Duel in the Sun.

The 2016-17 season, after a second-second start in China and at the Hero World Challenge, has been a frustrating struggle for Stenson, and he’s hoping that pairing alongside his good Ryder Cup buddy can help shake him from his funk. He has not made it to the weekend in four of his last five starts, withdrawing from WGC-Mexico in Round 1 (illness) and missing the cut in each of his last three starts (including the Masters).

“It’s really been the long game, which is kind of the foundation of my game,” Stenson said. Poor play has led him to go into “practice” mode, and when he does that, he said he loses interest in competing.

“It hasn’t been super-bad, but it hasn’t been great, either,” Stenson said. “When I go into more ‘practice’ mode, then I lose the interest of performing, which it’s kind of been the last month. . . . It goes more into trying to fix, solve, analyze, that stuff, and my mind is not on fighting it out. So it kind of effects the mindset a little bit for tournaments. In that respect, I think this could be a really good week for me. I’m not just playing for myself now.”

Henrik Stenson (silver), Justin Rose (gold), Matt Kuchar (bronze) show off their medals at the 2016 Olympics.

Henrik Stenson (silver), Justin Rose (gold), Matt Kuchar (bronze) show off their medals at the 2016 Olympics. (Getty Images)

He is not, and familiarity will be a key ingredient on Thursday when strong wind gusts are expected to whip across TPC Louisiana, assuring that any score in the red in the alternate-shot format will represent a quality round. In good play or bad, Stenson and Rose should weather the day quite well.

The players were asked, Is the relationship spiritual?

“I don’t know where we’re headed with this,” Stenson said, smiling. “Maybe on Sunday.”

“For me,” added Rose, “the most important thing on the golf course is not feeling to burden to say you’re sorry if you hit a poor shot, to know that we’ve both given 100 percent, to know that we’ve got each other’s back.”

That they do. And this marks one team amid a pool of lesser-tested ones that already has showed us as much.

America has the scars to prove it.

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