Justin Rose: The Invincible Aren’t So Invincible

Justin Rose - Winner of 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship

Justin Rose squeaked out a one-shot victory in the WGC-Cadillac Championship where the overnight leaders sort of wallowed through their rounds and those who had been lying in wait pounced.

Rose shot 2-under 70 in the final round, while Bubba Watson shot 2-over and Keegan Bradley shot 3-over on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami.

The conditions were a little more benign than they had been as to the wind, but the gnarly Bermudagrass rough more than held its own as a deterrent to blockbuster low scores. John Senden (T6) and Francesco Molinari (T13) both managed 7-under 65s, but from far back in the field. Senden is likely to continue to be a factor; he was the player I interviewed at the Accenture Match Play who was working on playing with freedom. He’s clearly getting there.

Rory McIlroy already knows how to do that. He shot 5-under to finish 3rd by himself. He’s played in just three events so far this year, he’s finished 2nd at Accenture, 1st at Honda and 3rd at Doral, and won $2.4 million. If you look at last year, you see a continuity of excellence that leaves no doubt that he deserves to be the No. 1 player in the World rankings.

Rose was interesting in his visit to the media room. “It’s been a great two weeks to be honest with you.  I’ve been very focused on just sort of seeing this whole Florida Swing as like a body of work and not really trying to put too much focus on any individual tournament.”

What was interesting was his intention to have a wholistic approach rather than focusing on each of the four tournaments in turn. One of the benefits of doing that is that it gives you the feeling that you’re “deep in the process” for an extended period of time. This, rather than the rifle-shot approach that has so much hinging on each one, along with the attendant emotional roller coaster.

“I kind of knew I was playing well,” Rose said. “And if I just kept out of my own way for the most part and kept thinking well and doing the right things, I had a feeling something good might happen in these four weeks; and I’m kind of including the next two weeks, as well.”

Trying to “just keep out of my own way,” is pretty good evidence that even the invincible among us really don’t believe that they are. There’s always that defensiveness, always the conditional, the equivocation. Good to know when you come against someone you aren’t supposed to beat. Stated another way, everybody bleeds red…puts their pants on one leg at a time…fill-in-the-blanks.

And there was more vulnerability. “I was trying to make 5 pretty much the whole day…but it’s kind of funny, when you try to make 5 how difficult that seems sometimes.  6 seems to come into play way too much.”

And even this, “I was driving the ball really well all day. I felt very comfortable on the tee shot [on 18].  Felt like I could get the ball in play.  [But then playing companion,] Peter Hanson pulled it left [towards the lake], and when it went left off the clubface, I chose not to even follow his ball with my eyes because I didn’t want to entertain anything left.” Like a vampire, he couldn’t bear to watch.

And then he was asked the difference between this week and last week when he didn’t win.

I’m going to say it’s the randomness of golf, really.  I felt comfortable last week on the weekend.  I felt calm.  I felt ready to play well on the weekend.

Then this week, I did.  Maybe it was just a fact of, you know, you desensitize a little bit to the pressure, to the cameras, to the crowd and you get more comfortable.  And I think that’s why guys like Tiger and Phil are so good down the stretch and under pressure, because they have done it so often.  I think it’s all about just getting comfortable.

I felt very comfortable today.  I was even kind of checking myself, even on 18 tee, I was like, there was very little nerves.  I’m like, this is not normal really, based upon the past.  I guess it’s a good sign of getting more comfortable out there.

And then if he was actually “trying” to be more relaxed:

Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of tricks and stuff going in.  It’s very easy to say, I’m going to be relaxed today.  But there’s certain‑‑ you’ve got to know your tendencies out there.  I definitely work on my pace and my rhythm from my golf swing to the way I walk to the way I do everything.

So I think that’s really what changes in most players on the weekend; they tend to get a little quicker.

Some of this wisdom surely comes from his swing coach, Sean Foley — yes, the very same Sean Foley that Tiger hooked up with — and his sports psychologist, Gio Valiante. It definitely helps to be able to have a sounding board for both the physical and the mental. It gives you sensitivities that you otherwise might not have developed.

And so now we have to consider Justin Rose in the mix for the Masters. “I believe I’m a good enough player now and I’ve learned enough along the way that I have a realistic shot every time I tee it up in a major. So that’s a good place to be.  I feel like I’m actually in probably a perfect spot.  The expectations are not too high but I feel my ability is good enough to get the job done.”

Congratulations, Justin Rose, on your win and your transformation.

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