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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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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep. 165): One-on-one with Shane Bacon

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Host Michael Williams talks with the co-host of the Golf Channel’s Golf Today about the Open Championship and Collin Morikawa’s place in the history books.

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What’s old is new again

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All of a sudden, today’s newest trend in golf is yesterday’s clubs.

Golfers are making a move towards old classics the way car enthusiasts would ogle a classic Porsche 911 before they would look twice at a new Tesla Model 3. On the spectrum of art to science, Tesla is peak science and focused on efficiency in every fathomable way. The other will absolutely get you from A to B, but you are more likely to have a smile on your face while you take the detour along the water while enjoying the journey to get there. It is the second type of club that is enjoying this latest resurgence, and I can’t get enough.

New businesses are springing up to refurbish old clubs such as @mulligansclubmakers and @twirledclubs with price tags approaching (and exceeding) the RRP at the time of release of many of the clubs in question. These old clubs are often found in pictures of major champions being used in the 1970s and 1980s, which serves to make them more valuable and interesting to enthusiasts. Other clubs are simply polished examples of the clubs many of us owned 25 years ago and now regret selling. The more polish on an old blade, the better, with classic designs from brands like Wilson Staff, Mizuno, or MacGregor seeing demand and prices increase every month. Seeing these old clubs reimagined with shiny BB&F co ferrules, updated shafts, and grips can get some golfers hot and bothered, and they will open their wallets accordingly.

Around 15 years ago, I bought an old set of blades from the brand Wood Brothers. For many years, I was unable to find out a single thing about those clubs, until @woodbrosgolf came out of hibernation this year onto Instagram and into a frothing market for handmade classic clubs from a forgotten past. I was able to get information that the blades had come out of the Endo forging house in Japan, and my decision to keep the clubs in the garage all these years was vindicated. Now I just need an irrationally expensive matching Wood Bros persimmon driver and fairway wood to complete the set…

Among other boutique brands, National Custom Works (@nationalcustom) has been making pure persimmon woods with the help of Tad Moore to match their incredible irons, wedges, and putters for some time, and now the market is catching up to the joy that can be experienced from striking a ball with the materials of the past. There is an illicit series of pictures of persimmon woods in all states of creation/undress from single blocks of wood through to the final polished and laminated artworks that are making their way into retro leather golf bags all over the world.

There are other accounts which triumph historic images and sets of clubs such as @oldsaltygolf. This account has reimagined the ‘What’s in the Bag’ of tour pros in magazines and made it cool to have a set of clubs from the same year that shows on your driver’s license. I hold them wholly to blame for an impulse buy of some BeCu Ping Eye 2 irons with matching Ping Zing woods… The joy to be found in their image feed from the 70s and 80s will get many golfers reminiscing and wishing they could go back and save those clubs, bags and accessories from their school days. If you want to see more moving pictures from the era, @classicgolfreplays is another account which shows this generation of clubs being used by the best of the best in their heyday. Even better than the clubs are the outfits, haircuts and all leather tour bags to match.

It seems that this new generation of golfer – partially borne out of COVID-19 — is in need of clubs that can’t be sourced fast enough from the major OEMs, so they have gone trawling for clubs that were cool in a different time, and they want them now. Those golfers who match the age of the clubs are also experiencing a golfing rebirth, as the technology gains from the OEMs become incremental, many are now finding enjoyment from the classic feel of clubs as much as they are searching for an extra couple of yards off the tee.

Either way, the result is the same, and people are dusting off the old blades and cavities from years past and hitting the fairways more than ever before. With the desire shifting towards fun over challenge, they are even creeping forward to the tees that their clubs were designed to be played from and finding even more enjoyment from the game. If only I hadn’t got rid of those old persimmons in high school…

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Top 4 reasons why most golfers don’t get better

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A couple of years ago, I attended a symposium put on by Golf Digest’s research department. They explored the typical responses as to why people quit or don’t play more – too much time, too expensive, etc. But the magazine’s research department uncovered the real fact – by a large margin, the number one reason people give up the game is that they don’t get better!

So, with all that’s published and all the teaching pros available to help us learn, why is that? I have my rationale, so put on your steel toe work boots, because I’m probably going to step on some toes here.

The Top 4 Reasons Golfers Don’t Improve

  1. Most golfers don’t really understand the golf swing. You watch golf and you practice and you play, but you don’t really understand the dynamics of what is really happening at 100 mph during the golf swing. There are dozens of good books on the subject – my favorite is Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” But pick any good one and READ IT. LEARN IT. It will help you immensely if you understand what the swing is really all about. Use a full length mirror to pose in key positions in the swing to match the drawings and photos. All the practice in the world will not help if you are not building a sound fundamental golf swing.
  2. Learning golf doesn’t start in the middle. A sound golf swing is built like a house. First the foundation, then the framing, roof, exterior walls, interior, paint, and trim. You can’t do one before the other. In golf, it all starts with the grip. If you do not hold the club properly, you’ll never accomplish a sound golf swing. Then you learn good posture and setup. If you don’t start in a good position, the body can’t perform the swing motion properly. With a good grip and a sound setup posture, I believe anyone can learn a functional golf swing pretty easily. But if those two foundations are not sound, the walls and roof will never be reliable.
  3. Most bad shots are ordained before the swing ever begins. I am rarely surprised by a bad shot, or a good one, actually. The golf swing is not a very forgiving thing. If you are too close to the ball or too far, if it’s too far forward or backward, if you are aligned right or left of your intended line, your chances of success are diminished quickly and significantly. The ball is 1.68 inches in diameter, and the functional striking area on a golf club is about 1.5-inches wide. If you vary in your setup by even 3/4 inch, you have imposed a serious obstacle to success. If you do nothing else to improve your golf game, learn how to set up the same way every time.
  4. Learn to “swing” the club, not “hit” the ball. This sounds simple, but the golf swing is not a hitting action: it’s a swinging action. The baseball hitter is just that, because the ball is in a different place every time – high, low, inside, outside, curve. He has to rely on quick eye-hand coordination. In contrast, the golf swing is just that – a swing of the club. You have total control over where the ball is going to be so that you can be quite precise in the relationship between your body and the ball and the target line. You can swing when you want to at the pace you find comfortable. And you can take your time to make sure the ball will be precisely in the way of that swing.

Learning the golf swing doesn’t require a driving range at all. In fact, your backyard presents a much better learning environment because the ball is not in the way to give you false feedback. Your goal is only the swing itself.

Understand that you can make a great swing, and often do, but the shot doesn’t work out because it was in the wrong place, maybe by only 1/4 inch or so. Take time to learn and practice your swing, focusing on a good top-of-backswing position and a sound rotating release through impact. Learn the proper body turn and weight shift. Slow-motion is your friend. So is “posing” and repeating segments of the swing to really learn them. Learn the swing at home, refine your ball striking on the range and play golf on the course!

So, there you have my four reasons golfers don’t get better. We all have our own little “personalization” in our golf swing, but these sound fundamentals apply to everyone who’s ever tried to move a little white ball a quarter-mile into a four-inch hole. Working on these basics will make that task much easier!

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