Justin Rose hasn’t won since the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open, has dropped to No. 23 in the world and finished 100th in the FedEx Cup just two seasons after winning the whole ball of wax.
So, when asked ahead of Thursday’s opening round of the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek if he was doing anything special to try to hit it as far as Bryson DeChambeau these days, he answered, “I’m just trying to hit it straight again, to be honest with you, before I think about hitting it far. I’m just trying to get my technique back to a sound position.”
Rose, 40 and a 10‑time winner on the PGA Tour, is amid a period of great change in his life. First he switched caddies, parting with longtime sidekick Mark Fulcher in May 2019. Then he ended his short-lived endorsement deal with Honma (officially in May but had made the switch back to his longtime sponsor TaylorMade in March) and finally split with instructor Sean Foley in June after 11 years. For someone who had so many long-term relationships in his professional life, it had the feel of being a mid-career crisis. Rose noted that he also is in the process of moving his permanent residence from the Bahamas back to England, where his son, Leo, is currently attending school.
“We’re just trying to suss it all out at the moment,” Rose said of returning to his native England. “It’s always been our eventual long‑term plan, but like I said, just the way of the world right now feels like it’s forcing the hand a little sooner.”
Only in Vegas, do you find a British phone box on the 9th tee!! pic.twitter.com/pkxbvRMotw
— Justin ROSE (@JustinRose99) October 13, 2020
Rose is making his first starts at the CJ Cup this week and Zozo Championship next week, and after missing the cut at the U.S. Open and finishing T-37 at the European Tour’s BMW Championship last week he knows he’s got his work cut out to prepare for the Masters in November.
“I have no form coming in here, but certainly I’m looking at using these sort of next eight rounds to trend into Augusta,” Rose said. “That’s definitely important for me these next couple of weeks to start to feel like I can make improvements and progress with my game.”
As funny as it may sound, Rose’s ballstriking, the backbone of his game, arguably has been the biggest cause of his frustration. In 2015, he ranked fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach and has slowly backed up all the way to ranking No. 66 last season, which is still better than average but not up to his usual high standards.
“For me that’s just technical, there’s nothing mental about that. If I was yipping it from four feet, I’d be worried about that, but I’m not,” he said. “It’s nothing crazily wrong, it’s just a little bit of technique and once I get that technique figured out, then normal service resumes.”
Indeed, his “normal services” had become a thing of beauty as he ascended to World No. 1 in September 2018. The view from the top of the mountain was glorious. The road back to the top will require renewed dedication. Rose has a pretty good idea of what that will take.
“Consistency I think is what got me to world No. 1. I don’t know what it was, but it was like 24 top‑10s out of 30 events run, so obviously the consistency that I was playing with is what I was looking for,” Rose said. “I think at the moment I feel like there’s flashes of it. I’m seeing moments on the range where it’s really, really good, but then day to day it’s not quite as consistent. I’m trying to sort of drill down into I know what I’m doing wrong, I’m just not entirely sure of the quickest line to fix it.”
Rose, who played with TaylorMade gear for most of his career before signing with Honma before the 2019 season, is back using “a baseline of what I knew was comfortable for me,” along with some Titleist Vokey wedges and the Axis1 putter that he has used to great effect ever since he switched to the claw and committed to the putting principles of putting coach Phil Kenyon. Rory McIlroy, who went through his own struggles when he switched equipment manufacturers, can relate to what Rose has endured.
“I think sometimes it takes a while to get used to different equipment and you’re so used to playing something for so many years,” McIlroy said. “You can get into bad habits and your swing goes off a little bit. I think that’s maybe something that Rosie struggled with this year is sort of trying to almost make his swing fit the clubs other than the other way around. But I played with him at the U.S. Open and he didn’t seem that far away. He seemed like he was pretty close. Wouldn’t surprise me if he played pretty well the next couple weeks.”
Indeed, it was just two weeks ago that another former major champion and European Ryder Cup stalwart broke out of a slump with a victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Could Rose pull his version of Sergio Garcia in Sin City? He is confident that better golf is ahead of him.
“I’m enjoying the struggle in a sense, I’m enjoying the work,” he said. “And I don’t think you can always be in a performance phase, I think sometimes there’s work phases, sometimes there’s performance phases and I’m definitely having to grind it out at the moment, but kind of still weirdly enjoying my golf and I feel motivated and hungry. Yeah, I’ve just got to kind of be patient.”