Red-hot Rose leads pack of British contenders

Justin Rose during a practice round at the Old Course.


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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Pressure? What pressure?

That attitude might bring Justin Rose his first major victory. His new laissez-faire approach might mean he’s the one holding the old Claret Jug on the Old Course’s 18th green come Sunday evening.

It’s certainly helped him so far this season.

Rose arrives for the 150th anniversary of the game’s oldest championship in the best form of his life. Two victories – the Memorial and the AT&T National – in the space of a month means he turns up for his first British Open at St Andrews as one of the favorites to take the title.

Rose is a 20-1 shot to win, according to British bookmakers William Hill.

The Englishman is in the vanguard of a wave of British success this year. He is No. 16 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Six other Brits occupy the top 11 spots.

Rose followed the winning ways of Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood on the PGA Tour this year, and outdid them with two victories to their one. Sandwiched between Rose’s wins was Graeme McDowell’s U.S. Open triumph.

Poulter is one of Rose’s best friends. He’s close with Westwood and McIlroy, too. Success often spurs peers on to similar success. Yet Rose felt no pressure to follow in the footsteps of Poulter and Co.

“It was the fact of not worrying about them winning that helped me to go on and win,” Rose said. “Not putting pressure on myself to be one of the gang, to be measured the same way. For me, a big part of that was taking all the pressure away, getting rid of that.

“It was the fact of not letting their wins inspire me.”

Rose might play the majority of his golf in the U.S. now as a PGA Tour member, but he was reared on links golf. Who can forget his emergence onto the world stage as a 17-year-old at Royal Birkdale in 1998, when he finished fourth as an amateur?

No wonder he wants the Old Course to provide a tough exam paper for the world’s elite.

“I like a test,” he said. “The way I pictured, it would be nice and sunny, 20-mile-an-hour cross breeze across the golf course. I think that would test everybody. If we get a little bit of that, that would be nice, and if we get a little bit of the extreme stuff, then so be it. That’s part of an Open Championship.”

With British golfers doing so well on the world stage right now, it’s no surprise the odds makers have lowered the odds on Rose, McIlroy, Westwood and Poulter. Many pundits are predicting a British win this week.

Rose is leaning that way, too.

“You look at the world rankings, you look at the opportunity for us, it’s probably better than it’s ever been,” he said. “Just using that as a basis, I think one of us will be in contention Sunday afternoon.”

With his new attitude, don’t be surprised if it’s Justin Rose.

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