Weather improves, and so does Rose's game
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose soared up the leaderboard at the 95th PGA Championship on Friday, firing a 4-under 66 in a round that included a front-nine (his back nine) 29.
At 6-under 134 through 36 holes, Rose was one shot behind playing partner and early clubhouse leader Adam Scott.
Rose played almost all of his first nine holes in a steady rain that seemed destined to halt play, but never did, shooting a 2-over 37 before getting red hot at the turn.
"It really was challenging," Rose said. "I was struggling. I was struggling to flight the ball off the tee. I was struggling to really stay in my routine. My routine requires that I take one hand off the club and sort of do a plumb-bob, and I wasn't doing that because I was trying to keep a grip on the club at all times, and you are kind of out of you comfort zone immediately because of the elements.
“And your caddie is over with the umbrella, and you're actually telling him, that's good, go away now. So you're actually saying stuff in your routine that you wouldn't otherwise do, so it definitely upsets the balance a little bit. That's how I felt, anyway. It was a hard work front nine for me.”
But then, things changed.
“The rain stopped – that was pretty much it,” said Rose, when asked what finally clicked on his back nine. “Fresh glove, took the rain pants off, and began to feel like you could get after the golf course. The front nine was very difficult. Obviously I started my day bogey, bogey, and really kind of had a sense of, wow, this is just going to be a struggle today. We are going to have to really just hang tough.”
That’s precisely what he did. Rose literally weathered three bogeys and one birdie on his front nine before going on a birdie barrage on his back nine.
Coming off a bogey on the difficult par-4 18th hole that measures nearly 500 yards, Rose rattled off birdies on four of his first five holes on the front side. Believe it or not, the only hole out of that stretch he failed to birdie was the par-5 fourth hole.
“Obviously, I got hot,” Rose said. “Adam had showed us how you can play this golf course. He made it look easy for a couple of days and obviously it was my turn to get things going low. I had good numbers on the back nine.
“That's the other thing, a lot of numbers just fit the yardage perfectly and I had the right club and I was able to take advantage. I didn't make long putts, but I made a lot of putts. So I made pretty much every putt from around 12 feet that I had on the back nine.”
Arguably the best looking of Rose’s birdies over that impressive stretch was the one he made on No. 2. His 3-wood off the tee settled in the middle of the fairway and his approach shot with a wedge danced around the hole before settling inches away for an easy birdie.
Rose ended his round on a high note with birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 as well on putts from 12 and 4 feet, respectively.
The Englishman who is still on cloud nine after his U.S. Open victory at Merion in June was, understandably, quite pleased with his work Friday that has given him a great chance to go after a second major title this weekend.
"It's wonderful to be in this situation right now, talking about having done it; talking about feeling like you can win more, believing in yourself, not talking about how I hope it could happen this week," Rose said. "So I think that alone makes it easier. Yeah, I think I take confidence and encouragement from the fact that I think Phil was 33 when he won his first major – I think that's right – I could be wrong. He right now could be considered one of the greats of the game I think, especially if he gets one more U.S. Open, he goes down in an all-time, very short list.
“It's motivating to know that you can still build that kind of career in your 30s. But at the same time, you know, you understand how hard it is,” he added. “There's great players like myself or as good as myself, as I should say, who haven't been able to win a major. I feel grateful to have the monkey off my back and focus forward and look at each of them coming up as opportunities."