Odds are Justin Rose will be in hunt at U.S. Open


SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – British bookmakers rank Justin Rose the second favorite at this week’s U.S. Open, behind Dustin Johnson, and in the case of Ladbrokes, ahead of Rory McIlroy. A member of the press informed Rose of these odds at a pre-tournament press conference and asked how it made him feel.

“Oooooh,” Rose said, in feigned excitement.

Rose, of course, doesn’t give a flip what the bookies think, but he can’t argue with their assessment.

“I think probably it’s about right,” he said. “I’ve been playing well. … I’m on the leaderboard a lot. I’m comfortable with it. I’m No. 3 in the world, past champion here. It makes sense to me.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a player who looks more at ease this week. The first time Rose came to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in 2004, he wasn’t a fan. Missed the cut. But six years ago, he returned for a casual round with members and fell in love with the widened fairways, part of the club’s restoration process. The 180-attitude comes in handy at a championship that tests mental fortitude in particular.

Rose came into the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion with a new outlook on the majors. When the Englishman turned 30, he figured the next decade was his best window to make hay at the majors. He had 40 shots at it, and he planned to capitalize.

At Merion, however, a 32-year-old Rose had a revelation: He’s going to win majors; but he’s also going to lose.

“You can’t skip through your career without one or two slipping through the net,” Rose said. “It’s a by-product of being on the leaderboard that those things happen. So I wasn’t scared of losing, and that helped me win my first major championship.”

A year ago Rose struggled with back pain that eventually led his team down a biomechanics route to find some answers. It took time to implement the changes, and Rose has been on a quiet, steady path to get to this point. Swing coach Sean Foley shakes his head when he hears television commentators opining on what kind of swing is good or bad for a player with ongoing back issues.

“No one ever looks at a world-class sprinter and says the way he’s running is pulling his hamstring,” Foley said. “The fact of the matter is, if you are going to run at 25 mph, you’re probably going to pull your hamstring.”

Same goes with swinging hard, though they have made adjustments to help alleviate the issue.

Rose comes into this week’s championship fresh off a victory at the Fort Worth Invitational and a share of sixth at The Memorial.

An all-world ballstriker, Rose has improved significantly on the greens of late. In 2017 he finished 123rd in strokes gained: putting; he’s currently ranked 10th. His one-putt percentage vaulted from 155th last year to T-17. From 20-25 feet, he converts 20.51 percent of the time.

And he is best when it matters most, ranking T-10 in fourth-round putting.

Rose looks to the likes of Curtis Strange and Hale Irwin, players who made their careers out of winning U.S. Opens, as a model of what’s to come. The now 37-year-old’s mindset at this championship has evolved over the years. Rather than trying to hang around and not make mistakes, he now relishes the opportunity to play great golf on a USGA setup. It’s not a week of survival, but rather a week that tests every element, and Rose believes his all-around game is up to the task.

“I feel like I don’t have to rely upon one part of my game every week,” Rose said. “I think there’s areas of my game that can always bail me out. Some weeks it could be my putting, chipping, iron play, great off the tee.

“I do it all.”

– David Dusek contributed

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