Justin Rose looks to recreate magic of ’98 at Birkdale
Southport — After Justin Rose finished fourth in the British Open at Royal Birkdale as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998, it seemed inevitable he would soon go on to win the Claret Jug. But he returns to the Southport links for this week’s championship having never managed to match that performance as a professional.
It is little wonder that Rose, now 36, spoke of "unfinished business" on Tuesday as he prepared for Thursday’s first round, when he will go out in a group with former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of SA and Justin Thomas.
"It surprises me after all these years that is still the best finish," he said of his 1998 performance when Mark O’Meara eventually won the title in a playoff against Brian Watts. Rose equalled the record low score for an amateur at The Open with a second-round 66, and there was a huge roar when he holed a pitch from the rough at the 18th on the Sunday for a birdie to secure a tie for fourth place.
"I don’t want to say that if I don’t win this it’s going to be a huge sort of hole in my career, but it was the one tournament that even before I finished fourth here as an amateur, I got to final qualifying at the age of 14 and created a bit of a story then.
"It’s definitely been a championship that I’ve had great moments in.
"And to win it would kind of close the book in a way on my Open Championship story."
Rose, who warmed up for Birkdale by attending Roger Federer’s victory over Marin Cilic in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, has had mixed results since winning Olympic gold in Rio in 2016. He was runner-up to Sergio Garcia at the Masters in April but missed the cut at the recent US Open.
Having only ever won one Major, at the US Open in 2013, Rose admits he still uses his 1998 display as a model.
"The freedom I had that particular week, the confidence I had in my short game, the innocence in which I played the game, I think, is kind of still a model," he said.
"But, yeah, when I do look back I do marvel at how I was able to compete so closely down the stretch, and finished within two shots of winning an Open Championship at the age of 17. I guess for me it was a glimpse into what my potential is. And hard work will create another chance here and there."