Golf has Olympic refuseniks, those who are sanguine about the sport’s imminent Games return, and Justin Rose.
Should the International Golf Federation need assistance with public relations in order to retain Olympic status – and all the evidence suggests it does – then a call to the world No11 would prove time well spent.
One glance at Rose’s social media platforms will outline how immersed he has quickly become in Team GB. Conversation with the former US Open champion expands on that, the Englishman keen to embrace the Olympic scene as a whole rather than focus solely on golf. He will travel to Rio on Thursday before taking part in the 2016 opening ceremony a day later.
“That could be the most special moment of the whole week,” Rose said. “Once the golf starts it will be a tournament. If you can slip on a medal, that will be unique. But at the same time the opening ceremony, that event itself, is going to make us feel like we are part of something a bit special.
“The Olympic Games has been important to our family. My wife was always really into it, she was a gymnast growing up and the Olympics was a dream of hers even though the type of gymnastics she did was never recognised as a Games sport. One day she hoped it would be. She is excited about it, therefore I get excited about it.
“It is the first one for 100 years. Who knows where it is going to go from here, but I hope onwards and upwards, like tennis. Tennis players are now skipping big Masters series events to prepare for the Olympics and that had been a slow burner, so hopefully we have a really positive experience down in Rio, spread the word and golfers will get more and more excited by the opportunity.”
Rose is not playing to the gallery. This is deep-rooted sentiment and of the valuable kind for those looking to make the case against the backdrop of withdrawals and complaints. He will spend next weekend taking in whatever Olympic sports are available, immersing himself in the scene.
He will also head to Brazil in fine spirits and improving form. His Saturday 66 in the third round here included successive nines of 33. This was not a bad way to mark Rose turning 36. There was also a spot of good fortune; Rose was gone from the premises by the time play was halted at 2.15pm due to a lightning threat. So, too, was Padraig Harrington after his excellent 65. Given the forecast, questions will be asked as to why play on Saturday did not begin earlier. A Monday finish is now highly likely.
Rose said: “The birthday present came early, making the cut here. When I finished my second round, I felt like I had made the cut, but as the day went on I thought that I would miss it. It was one of the tightest cuts I have ever seen, it was incredibly close. The bottom line is I was so happy to be out there today and I wanted to make the most of it.
“I didn’t play that well but I putted unbelievably well, which was so much fun because that’s something I’ve been working incredibly hard on. I saw a lot of progress on the greens today.
“It was one of those days where I had as good a score as I could have shot, those are rare. I feel like I’m close to playing well, but I just need some extra time out on the course. It wasn’t about a result today but every day is important for my confidence and my development. This is the last major of the year so it is important but every week is going to be important for me from now through to the Ryder Cup. I’m looking for progress day in, day out.”
The bigger competitive picture relates to a run dating back to 2010 during which Rose has won at least one tournament per year. So far, 2016 does not have that victory note. There is a decent excuse for that as Rose was hampered seriously by a back problem at the Players Championship that disrupted the early part of his summer.
“I played through the weekend at the Players and, looking back, that maybe wasn’t smart because I was in a bad way on the Monday and Tuesday,” he said.
Now, Rose stresses his back feels fine. Making it seven in seven years is a burning ambition. “That is on my mind, for sure. I have got to look at 2011. That wasn’t a particularly good year, then I won the BMW Championship in mid‑September and it turned into a great year. It can happen any week.
“I’m very aware of it, I know time is running out, but at the same time I feel like a lot of things in my game are beginning to click.”
Which, at long last, may be cause for Olympic golf celebration.
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