PINEHURST Although Justin Rose won the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, he doesn’t like the terminology that’s associated with the crowning accomplishment of his career.
“For me being the defending champion, I don’t even like the word: defending,” said Rose. “It puts you already behind the eight ball. You don’t want to be out there being defensive at all.”
Put it this way, perhaps: Rose will try to become the first back-to-back winner since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and ’89 when the Open begins Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2.
Life changed for Rose after he held off Phil Mickelson and Jason Day by two strokes at Merion, just outside of Philadelphia.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” said Rose, the first British winner of the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. “A lot of good stuff has happened in that year. It’s moved the needle from my career’s point of view. Very few tournaments you win make an impact, but winning a major championship did do that for me and that was fun.”
So while Rose has had an uneven time of it since winning the Open, he’s cherished each moment of the year it’s been since Merion.
“It’s been an interesting sort of reflective period, I suppose,” said Rose, 33. “The last few years of my career have been on an upward trend and winning bigger and bigger tournaments, culminating with winning a major. I haven’t been one of those guys who said I’m going to win ‘x’ amount of majors in my career.
“I just want to treat this major as a gift and have the ability to sort of free wheel it the rest of my career. Play free, play loose, just go after it. I’ve got no pressure anymore.”
That philosophy has yet to result in a victory this season for Rose, who has four other PGA Tour victories to go along with his Open triumph. He followed up a tie for 14th at the Masters with top-10 finishes in the next three tournaments (including fifth at Charlotte’s Wells Fargo Championship), but missed the cut at the Memorial two weeks ago. He’s well down (42nd) in the FedEx Cup rankings.
“I feel like my game is going to put me in the hunt for many more years go come,” he said. “With that ability to enjoy the moment, more will come my way. I’ve dreamed of playing Ryder Cup, winning major championships. Now that I’ve done that, I can also balance my whole life, children, being a good dad. Just being truly happy with everything that’s happened in my life.
“It’s time to embrace it, enjoy it and let that be the strength for me to go on and win more.”
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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