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Justin Rose's trip down memory lane this week could be just the spark he needs to get his season going in the right direction. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Rose's historic coming-out remains subject of great debate

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Justin Rose's big finish here in '98 was amazing. It instantly made him famous, but also might've cost him dearly.

By T.J. Auclair, PGATOUR.COM Interactive Producer

Sunday, July 17, 1998, was the day that the golf world became enamored with a 17-year-old amateur prodigy.

The lad was England's Justin Rose, who early that evening holed a 75-yard approach shot on Royal Birkdale's closing hole for a birdie and a tie for fourth in golf's oldest major --
the Open Championship.

It could be argued that day is both the best and the worst of Rose's golf career. The best because this was a teenage kid in the hunt until the very end in a major championship and, as an Englishman, in the major he holds closest to his heart.

It may have been the worst because Rose turned pro a day later and went from a feel-good story to a young man with the kind of hype and expectations that no one this side of Tiger Woods could possibly fulfill.

Need proof? In his first 21 starts as a professional after Royal Birkdale, Rose missed the cut every time. That doesn't exactly scream of "star in the making."

What started as a fairytale quickly seemed to turn into a nightmare. Was this sure-thing kid just another flash in the pan who would disappear into obscurity?

For a while, that looked like it would be the case. Until 2002, that is. That year, Rose --
now a card-carrying journeyman at the tender age of 21 --
would win four times. He was victorious on the European Tour twice with wins at the Dunhill Championship and British Masters; had a win on the Sunshine Tour at the Nashua Masters; and also captured The Crowns on the Japan Golf Tour.

The sweet 2002 season turned bitter that September, though, as Rose's father, Ken, lost his battle with leukemia and passed away at the age of 57.

Not surprisingly, Rose's game suffered after that great loss. However, he persevered through the next few years and might be the most mature player under the age of 30 that the game has to offer.

Last year, Rose finished No. 1 on the European Tour's Order of Merit despite playing in just 12 events. He had eight top-10 finishes in those 12 tournaments, including two wins and two runner-up finishes.

This time around at Birkdale, Rose isn't that 17-year-old, fresh-faced amateur living out a dream. Well, it's still a dream to be playing in the Open for Rose, but this time he's a full-fledged contender and No. 9 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rose comes to the year's third major after a missed cut at the U.S. Open and a tie for 36th at the Masters, but in 2007 he finished no worse than a tie for 12th in all four majors.

Overall, Rose's 2008 season hasn?t exactly jumped off the sports page. His best finish was a tie for second at the Memorial Tournament presented by Morgan Stanley, which is his only top-10 in 14 combined starts on the PGA Tour and European Tour.

However, with the way that Rose has bloomed since that magical run in 1998, his trip down memory lane this week could be just the spark he needs to get the season going in the right direction.

His game has obviously matured. We'll have to wait to see if Rose betters that 1998 finish, but whether he does or doesn't, there's no question that he is a more complete player now.

And, he'll be just as adored as he was 10 years ago.

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