2001: A budding success

Hertfordshire, England

Not long ago Justin Rose burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old amateur by holing a wedge shot at the last hole to finish tied for fourth in the 1998 British Open. Certainly he seemed destined for a glittering career, and he immediately turned professional to capitalize on his instant fame.

Since then the Englishman has taken the hard route to success, as his movement on the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index shows.

Rose’s struggles are well documented. He missed his first 21 professional cuts and had to go to the PGA European Tour Qualifying School in 1998, 1999 and 2000. At the beginning of 2000, Rose was ranked 829th. Starting this season, he had moved to 675th. His turnaround in 2001 can be measured by his rapid movement to 130th place, making him the most improved player in Europe this season.

Rose, who was 11 months old when his father gave him a plastic club, cites his confidence and hard work as reasons for his giant leap forward in the index.

“The reason I’ve done well this year is just the result of a lot of hard work finally paying off,” Rose said. “I always knew I had the talent to make it on tour, even when I missed all those cuts after I turned professional. I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work to get to this level, and I’ve proved myself right.”

When pressed on why he has moved so far up the rankings, the 1997 Walker Cup player points to improved play with his TaylorMade 300 Series driver as one of the main reasons.

“I’ve driven the ball better this season,” Rose said. “My bad tee shots this year have been less destructive – that’s probably the biggest reason why I’ve played so well this season. My bad tee shot this year has ended up on the edge of the fairway or just off the fairway, whereas before I would have been 30 yards off the fairway or even reaching for another ball. That makes a huge difference because it means I’ve got a chance to score on every hole. Obviously confidence stems from there and it feeds through your game.

“I believe now that I can go out and compete and have a chance to win tournaments, and that obviously improves your performance. Before I was concentrating so hard on just trying to play all four rounds, to make the cut, but now I’m thinking of competing, of winning the tournament.”

Fellow European Tour member Ian Poulter, 25, has witnessed his close friend’s steady improvement and says Rose’s climb to the competitive ranks was to be expected.

“I always knew Justin had the talent to make it on tour, so I wasn’t surprised when he got the season off to a great start,” Poulter said. “We spend a lot of time together on tour and help each other out. I kept telling him his game would come good but, to be honest, I didn’t have to. Justin always had faith in his own ability. He is too good a player not to make it on tour.”

Rose started the year with runner-up finishes in the Alfred Dunhill Champion-ship and the Mercedes-Benz South African Open, securing his card for 2002 and fulfilling one of his two preseason goals. He attained the other when he teed it up in the season-ending Volvo Masters at Montecastillo, which required a top-55 finish on the Order of Merit.

“Playing in the Volvo Masters was my ultimate goal this year,” Rose said, “and I’ve managed to achieve that, so I’m pretty happy.

“I’ve been very consistent this year and that’s the most encouraging thing. As an amateur I was very consistent week in, week out and that’s been the key this year.

“I also feel there’s a lot of little things that have helped me, too. I’ve got a good bunch of friends on tour, I’ve got the right equipment, I feel more comfortable with my surroundings, with life on tour in general. I just feel more comfortable out here and feel as if I belong now. When I turned pro it was all new to me and I was probably a bit out of my depth.”

The 21-year-old works on his game with his father, Ken, and David Leadbetter, who he has been with since 1998. He intends to spend time this winter with Leadbetter at the instructor’s teaching facility at ChampionsGate Golf Club and Resort in Kissimmee, Fla.

“This winter is going to be an important goal-setting winter,” Rose said. “I’m going to sit down and take stock of everything and see how I can move forward next year.

“I still have a lot of hard work to do because I feel I can get better. I still don’t believe I’m anywhere near my potential. I feel I’m operating at about 40 percent right now. So, although it’s been a good year, I still believe there will be a massive improvement in my game. To win a tournament is obviously my goal for next season.”

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