Justin Rose: 'My dad always believed I was capable of doing this'

Golf Tee

Justin Rose awoke in Pennsylvania on Monday morning as the third-ranked player in the world, a major winner and a history maker.

On a July Sunday at Royal Birkdale in 1998 it would have seemed inconceivable that Rose would wait 15 years for such prominence. Memories of the fresh-faced teenage amateur who holed an approach shot to the 72nd hole at the Open Championship came flooding back as Rose claimed the US Open at Merion, thereby becoming the first Englishman in 43 years to achieve the feat.

It would be inaccurate to portray the intervening years as a struggle for Rose. Prior to his triumph at Merion, the 32-year-old had won a World Golf Championship event, three other titles on the PGA Tour and established himself as one of the finest players in the game. Nonetheless in the early stages of his professional life Rose endured no shortage of turmoil, both personal and professional.

His major success was dedicated, fittingly, to his father, Ken, who died from leukaemia in 2002. Rose spoke about that loss, emotionally but so impressively and while keeping composure in the aftermath of his victory. "I was 21 when my dad passed away and I always think about it, as the time together we had was quality not quantity," he said. "I would rather have had 21 fantastic years with my dad than 40 years of a relationship that was so-so.

"I have very fond memories of the way I grew up. My dad and I were lucky enough to spend a lot of quality time together learning to play the game, after school on the driving range, so I can look back at our life together with a lot of fondness."

The premature loss of someone he held so close, though, understandably derailed Rose's entire life at the time. "I think my dad always believed that I was capable of this," he added. "He also did say when he was close to passing away, he told my mum: 'Don't worry, Justin will be OK. He'll know what to do.' He believed in me to be my own man. And I think that I took a lot of confidence from that."

On the course Rose infamously missed 21 cuts in succession after turning professional the day after he tied for fourth in that Birkdale Open.

"When I was missing 21 cuts in a row, I mean I was just trying to not fade away, really," Rose said. "I just didn't want to be known as a one-hit wonder, a flash in the pan. I believed in myself inherently. Deep down I always knew that I had a talent to play the game. And I simply thought that, if I put talent and hard work together, surely it will work out in the end, in the long run.

"I think that the other thing that I was able to do during that time period was not beat myself further and further into the ground. If I missed a cut by five one week and I missed it by two the next week, I would tell myself that I was getting better. I wouldn't beat myself further into the ground. So I think that's how I worked my way out of it a little bit.

"Also, there have been times in my career where I found it hard to finish tournaments, finish events, close out tournaments, and I think a lot of that goes back to that sort of scar tissue of early in my career.

"It was a pretty traumatic start to my pro career. I have never really talked about it, because you don't want to admit to that being the case, but I think when you've got past something you can talk openly about it."

Now Rose is a credit to his sport and a player with the confidence to win on the biggest stage. A hint of that talent – and progression – arrived at last year's Ryder Cup, where he memorably saw off the challenge of Phil Mickelson in a Sunday singles match amid a remarkable European success.

It seems appropriate that Mickelson, again, was second best to Rose on Sunday. At the Ryder Cup Mickelson went so far as to applaud Rose's putting brilliance. This time the American was overcome by the "heartbreak" of coming second in a US Open for the sixth time.

Rose's majestic approach to the 18th on Sunday was from 240 yards, therefore a flicked wedge shot back from where Ben Hogan famously found the green with a one-iron in 1950. As Rose edged towards etching his own name in history, a glance back was inevitable. "When I hit my tee shot and walked over the hill, I saw my ball in the up-slope in the middle of the fairway, waiting to be hit," Rose recalled. "And that image [of Hogan] is kind of hard to escape; that this was my turn to kind of have that iconic moment, I guess. I hit a good four iron, I felt I did it justice."

Rose has become the man to go where Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter have not, by ending England's wait for a major champion. The last to win one was Nick Faldo in 1996.

Debate can and will rage about which of the current players has the most core talent; but what can be said without question now is that Rose has that crucial mental capacity to push himself over a winning line.

"I really hope this does inspire them," said Rose of his compatriots. "I think it was always going to be a matter of time before one of us broke through. It was just going to be who. I always hoped it was going to be me to be the first, obviously. But I really hope this has broken the spell and guys can continue to sort of match up some for themselves."

Rose adopted the words of a local caddie when seeking a description of Merion's East Course. "The first six holes are drama, the second six holes are comedy and the last six holes are tragedy. Like a good play, like a good theatrical play." Rose's own tale, finally, is a brilliantly uplifting one.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray at Merion, for The Guardian on Monday 17th June 2013 20.57 Europe/London

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