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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: Consistent setup is key to success

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In follow up to last week’s post, Top 4 reasons golfers don’t improve, I want to dive into what I believe to be the most common problem affecting mid- to high-handicap players. This is a big topic that will help nearly every golfer, regardless of your skill level, so it’s going to take two articles to cover it.

Here’s part 1.

We all tend to play golf in a constant cycle of swing-and-correction, swing-and-correction, but my observation is that most of the time our bad swings are caused by improper, or inconsistent setup.

I’m a firm believer that once you have played golf for a while, you have probably developed the ability to have a reasonably repeating and effective swing path and method. Even though it might not be textbook, it’s yours and has your fingerprints all over it. And the fact that you occasionally strike really good shots proves that your swing has the capability of producing results that are gratifying.

I certainly don’t suggest you shouldn’t work to improve your swing technique – the better the mechanics, the better and more consistent the results you are going to get. But my point is that your swing has produced good shots before, and it can do so more often if you just “fix” one thing – your starting position.

The single issue that troubles golfers of all skill levels, from tour player to 100-shooter, is the ability to be consistent. And I’m a firm believer that many – if not most – bad shots are the result of a bad starting position. Think of it this way: no matter how good your swing might be, if you start each shot with the ball in a different position in relation to your body core’s rotation axis, you simply cannot get the clubhead back on the ball consistently.

The ball is 1.68” in diameter, and the effective striking surface of an iron or fairway wood is only an inch or so across. That puts pretty tight demands on your ability to get the club behind your head and back on the ball with consistency.

Let’s compare golf to a baseball hitter. He’s standing in the box and the pitch can be anywhere in the strike zone. He’s got to have good technique, but is heavily reliant on his eye/hand coordination to get the bat on the ball. Darn difficult task, which is why the very best hitters only average .350 or so, shank off lots of fouls and completely whiff the ball at least 20% of the time! If you translated that to golf, no one would ever break 150!

The single thing that makes this game remotely playable . . . is that we get to start with the ball in the exact spot where we want it – every time.

I have a friend in the custom club business that did some research measuring the setup consistency of hundreds of golfers of all skill levels. What he found is simple, but revealing. His methodology was to have golfers address and hit a series of 6-iron shots, stepping away and taking a fresh setup for each one. He found that good players with low single-digit handicaps showed the ability to put themselves in almost the exact same position in relation to the ball every time. Measuring from the back of their heels to the ball showed an average deviation from shot to shot of less than 1/4 inch.

But he saw that the higher the handicap, the more shot-to-shot error in setup consistency the golfer exhibited – 20-plus handicap golfers exhibited an average shot-to-shot deviation in distance from the ball of up to two inches or even more! That’s the entire width of the clubhead! It’s a wonder they ever hit it at all!

This variance is a major reason why we can get “in the groove” on the practice range, but have difficulty taking it to the course.

So, think about that for a few days, and next week, I will share how you can quickly build a solid and repeating setup, so that you can give yourself the best chances of hitting good shots more often.

If there is any true “secret” to improving your ball-striking, shotmaking, and scoring, this is certainly it.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: High octane ball compression and artistic touch around the greens

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From the Olympics to taking out the glancing blows in your irons and chipping it close. Wisdom in Golf has your back.

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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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