In prime, Rose says now is time to win majors

Justin Rose has held the first-round lead at the Masters three times.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Justin Rose believes the time to win majors is now. Players can qualify their 20s as a learning curve, Rose said. But after that, there’s no excuse.

“I said when I was 30, the next 10 years, I'm either going to do it or I'm not,” Rose said.

A victory at the U.S. Open last summer kicked off the monkey for Rose, who turns 34 on July 30. Winning the first major took longer than expected, especially given that he finished fourth at the 1998 Open Championship as a 17-year-old amateur. Nevertheless, the Englishman enters his ninth Masters in what he’s calling the prime of his career.

“Certainly winning at Merion was amazing and there's been a period of time where you adjust to that and you've got to figure, what's next,” Rose said. “I feel like I'm at that place now and I feel very energized for this year and beyond.”

Rose has a history of starting strong at Augusta. Three times he has finished Round 1 in first place. And while he has figured out how to close on Sundays in recent years, Rose has yet to break 70 in the second and third rounds.

“In the past I've always tried to get ready for Thursday and now I try to get ready for Saturday and Sunday,” Rose said. “I try to assume my game will put me in contention and I try to get ready for that.”

Rose was forced to take off two months at the start of the year to rehab tendinitis in his shoulder. He can’t pinpoint exactly when he hurt it – perhaps tossing a ball to his caddie at the Barclays – but he believes it was an overuse injury.

He’s pain-free now, and while nothing in his record indicates he’s on a hot streak, Rose said his game feels close.

“That's ultimately the most important thing,” Rose said, “how you feel internally about things.”

Rose counts himself among about 15 players in the field who separate themselves as favorites. The course suits Rose, but, as he said, it suits Rory, Phil, Dustin, Keegan and Adam just as well.

First-timers have a hard time winning here, Rose said, because the place is so awe-inspiring. It’s easy to get distracted.

Players such as Fred Couples don’t have to come in playing great.

“He just knows where he can't miss it,” said Rose, “and therefore, he's going to contain his round and he's going to shoot between 69 and 74 pretty much every day.”

Couples has missed the cut only twice in 29 appearances. He has 18 top-25 finishes and an Augusta scoring average of 71.88.

Rose said he learned the hard way in 2004. Leading the tournament after two rounds, Rose said he went out and tried to “chase the course.” He’d seen all the birdies and eagles made over the years on the back nine and tried to find that magic on a Saturday afternoon.

“For me, you can't chase the course,” Rose said. “You've got to let it unravel.”

Rose skipped the last two tournaments and came to Augusta a couple of weeks ago to get in some practice. He likened his preparation to that prior to Merion last summer. Rose only turned up at tournament week on Tuesday morning, missing out on the weather issues that closed the course Monday.

“I think I'm in a great place coming into this tournament,” Rose said. “I’m coming in as a major champion, but I'm coming in with no hype, no expectation, a little under the radar and I feel good with where my game is at.”

Ready for primetime.

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