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Opinion & Analysis

The Subtle Flair of Justin Rose

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If you decided to skip out on the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, you missed quite a show.

A gaggle of golfers held the lead or had it within their grasp at some point on Sunday, and three names fought furiously for the title over the final holes, with Justin Rose proving the strongest of the trio.

The Englishman birded Nos. 17 and 18 to take the initiative and eventually the title by one stroke, lasering an approach on a dangerous line on the penultimate hole, rolling in the subsequent 10-footer and following up with a 14-foot birdie effort that confidently dove into the left side of the cup.

It was Rose’s seventh career PGA Tour win and characterized in the aftermath as a quality triumph for a good guy.

And that’s great. From there, words like “solid,” “stoic” and “classy” come to frame Rose, and a player could do far worse than that. But while these descriptors aren’t necessarily incorrect, coloring the Englishman by these simple terms misses an essential point. Rose isn’t some vanilla personality who has some quality wins and a major: He’s an exciting force that some fans have generally yet to fully appreciate.

OK, it’s no secret that the Englishman has blossomed into a star as he’s progressed into his 30s (his mainstay among the world’s top-10 is tough to hide), but it still feels like he gets lost in the shuffle among the best players.

For one, if you mention Rose and his recent years of on-course performance, it doesn’t elicit that much enthusiasm. Yeah, he’s a great golfer, an elite one even, but he doesn’t produce hot bursts of play that capture media attention and can vault a golfer to exalted status in the game.

But there’s more than one way here.

How about this: Over the last half-decade, Rose has possibly played the consistently highest level of golf in the game. Does that sound enticing?

The beauty with Rose stems from his ability to mix stability with top-of-the-line play like few others. It’s a brilliant balance that doesn’t deserve to remain under the radar. After all, it’s terribly hard to reach a top-five level of play, which Rose has in the past five years, and significantly more difficult to basically never stray from that impeccably high bar.

Yet, Rose has mastered this tightrope.

Aside from one poor stretch in the middle of 2011, the Englishman all together avoided extended slumps from the spring of 2010 through 2014. (He also started off 2015 very poorly, but it later became clear that he wasn’t at all healthy.)

From the time of his big wins in 2010 through 2014, Rose produced an 87 percent made cut rate, finished top-25 in 68 percent of events and top-tenned 45 percent of the time. And his numbers year to year from 2010 to 2014 were eerily similar to these totals.

Compare this to other top-five players from 2010 on, and you start to see just how startling these consistent numbers are over a five-year period.

Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald — all top-five players at one point or another from 2010 or later — can point to consistent numbers over a season or two just as good if not better than Rose’s 2010-2014 stretch (especially Donald, who finished in the top-25 88 percent of the time and top-tenned at 76 percent rate in 2011). Over a five-year period, though, their numbers do not hold up, as every one of these cream of the crop golfers had at least one significantly down season, a distinction Rose managed to avoid.

The only players that really belong with Rose in managing to keep up this elite level of play over the past five years are Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy.

That’s it. Just those two. Heck, from 2011-2013, McIlroy experienced a few months-long valleys where he never sniffed contention.

This tiny list is instructive. Rose’s run over the past five years, rather than mundane in its sameness each season, actually proves quite marketable. The fact is, the 34-year-old has displayed an extremely exclusive ability, a long-term high-level consistency that has eluded almost every single top golfer over the past half-decade.

That’s pretty flashy to me.

And then there’s the personal side of Rose.

The Englishman doesn’t really seem to get the reputation of having an interesting backstory or possessing a discernible personality. On the former point, remember that Rose was a prodigy from a young age, a 17-year-old who inspired a nation with his performance at the 1998 Open Championship.

He then famously proceeded to miss the first 21 cuts of his professional career and really fell off the radar until he won four times in 2002. Rose then dropped off again as his father passed away that same year and he rose back up in 2006. That’s two devastating pitfalls only to re-emerge from the ashes stronger than before.

As a result, Rose has a sneaky confidence that comes out on the course from time to time, especially on the greens. It’s almost a cheeky sort of attitude that’s pretty amusing to watch. You can see a couple of examples from the top and bottom GIFs in this Adam Sarson post.

He’s generally also just kind of has a weird side, as we can see in these two examples.

05-01-14-rose-move

GIF via Adam Sarson

 

 

 

Honestly, these snipits speak to an inspired soul rather than a boring, flatlined personality.

So throw away your pre-conceived notions. Rose possesses plenty of unearthed allure, reiterated by his spirited reactions to his final putt in New Orleans.

It’s about time everybody catches on.

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Kevin's fascination with the game goes back as long as he can remember. He has written about the sport on the junior, college and professional levels and hopes to cover its proceedings in some capacity for as long as possible. His main area of expertise is the PGA Tour, which is his primary focus for GolfWRX. Kevin is currently a student at Northwestern University, but he will be out into the workforce soon enough. You can find his golf tidbits and other sports-related babble on Twitter @KevinCasey19. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: September 2014

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Lawrence

    Apr 30, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    He’s everything that’s right with golf…….personable, consistent, gracious and humble.

    Was a sign-bearer for him @ Honda Classic probably 8-10 years back…..still learning his game but you could see that he had what it takes…..

    Hopefully there are more victories and majors coming his way!

  2. ND Hickman

    Apr 29, 2015 at 4:31 am

    He was also the best player at last years Ryder Cup and by some margin.

  3. gwillis7

    Apr 28, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I am liking Rose more and more. I like that he is a bit quirky, and enjoyed watching him and spieth go at it in Augusta. I also like that he uses TM, those slots are definately helping those mishits.
    Ok ok, I am not even a TM hater, I like their woods (love their woods actually), just wanted to get that in there.

  4. Jengus

    Apr 28, 2015 at 9:49 am

    “Rose isn’t some vanilla personality” – great use of the word vanilla. Too many golfers fit this category, not taking anything away from their ability but the names Scott and Spieth spring to mind as some high profile players who just aren’t very interesting characters. Everyone loves an athlete who doesn’t always ‘toe the line’ and shows a bit of flamboyance or quirkiness (apart from Patrick Reed, he’s a bit off).

    I will admit I really like hearing Jordan talk to the ball while it’s in flight though 😉

  5. Alistair

    Apr 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Quiet bloke and not many people know too much about him. Subtle he is not, back home. He is actually a pretty boisterous guy amongst his mates. He actually does have a fondness for loudmouth pants too which I thought was a little weird. Don’t see too much of those on this side of the pond!

    • ParHunter

      Apr 28, 2015 at 11:03 am

      “Don’t see too much of those on this side of the pond”? You obviously don’t play at my club 😉 Hurts my eyes sometimes!

  6. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    The membership at Merion has embraced Rose. I doubt they could have asked for a better US Open champion.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams

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Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.

 

 

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On Spec

On Spec: Homa Wins! And how to avoid “paralysis by analysis”!

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This week’s episode covers a wide array of topics from the world of golf including Max Homa’s win on the PGA Tour, golf course architecture, and how to avoid “paralysis by analysis” when it comes to your golf game.

This week’s show also covers the important topic of mental health, with the catalyst for the conversation being a recent interview published by PGA Tour with Bubba Watson and his struggles.

 

 

 

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