Justin Rose: Pre-Championship Press Conference
BETH MAJOR: Welcome to the 2014 U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Here in Pinehurst, North Carolina. We would like to welcome 2013 U.S. Open defending champion, Justin Rose, to the Media Center. Justin won last year's event at Merion Golf Club in thrilling fashion on the final day. Justin, can you believe it's been a year already and can you give me some refections on the past year?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, sure, I can't believe it's a year. We did the final press conference with the trophy here Sunday night at Merion and that's kind of the last time I have had this backdrop, USGA press conference. So absolutely, it's been a year, a lot of good stuff has happened in that year. I thoroughly enjoyed being U.S. Open champion and I think also, though, having had a whole year now I'm also ready to sort of ready for the challenge ahead and certainly ready for this week. So, yeah, all-in-all it's just been an honor to be the U.S. Open champion. I think it's the reception I've had wherever I've gone, it's definitely, from my point of view, from my career's point of view, it's moved the needle. And very few tournaments you win make an impact, but certainly winning a Major Championship did do that for me and that was fun.
BETH MAJOR: You've certainly accorded yourself beautifully as U.S. Open champion and we're very happy to have you here this week. Could you give us a few initial thoughts of your reactions on Pinehurst and being here for your first visit?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I missed the cut at the Memorial, which to be honest, could turn out to be a blessing. It gave me the opportunity to come here Saturday, Sunday and Monday and really look at the golf course. And I enjoy seeing the golf course without tons of people out there, I think you can really see the character of the place much more. It gives you time to walk around the clubhouse, soak up some of the history. That's what happened to me at Merion last year and I wanted to do that again here. Obviously it's a historic venue. And just walking around the golf course, seeing some of the names on the trophies and some of the honors boards, it makes you excited about the venue. For me, that's as important as learning the golf course. Yeah, I felt like I got some good preparation done and yeah, looking forward to seeing -- I'm going out nine holes this afternoon, seeing how the course has changed from my initial look and formalizing my final game plan.
BETH MAJOR: Thank you. We'll open it up to questions.
Q. This championship is so difficult to win. Do you allow yourself to think of what it might be like to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, something that very, very rarely happens?
JUSTIN ROSE: I've allowed myself that thought for sure. Obviously that's the plan this week. If I look at it, I felt like I had a good opportunity in 2012 at Olympic Club, too. I played really well there. I finished six back but as a player sometimes it's a lot closer than that. I feel like the U.S. Open test suits me. It's a matter of just going out there. And for me being defending champion, I don't even like that word, defending, because it puts you in already behind the eight ball. You don't want to be out there being defensive at all. So I'm just really excited about the opportunity this week presents. Obviously, it is only one guy who has the opportunity to repeat, and but I'm seeing that as a pressure-free situation. Like you said, these tournaments are so hard to win, I'm just going to enjoy the challenge of trying to do that.
Q. Yesterday Curtis Strange had a little fun when asked whether he was rooting for you to do it or not necessarily rooting for you to do it. He said I'm not looking at it through a 1972 Miami Dolphins perspective, I don't not want him to do it, but I'm not necessarily pulling for anybody either. Would it be more gratifying to win just to win, just to have another Major, or to be the first guy in 25 years to successfully defend your title at this tournament?
JUSTIN ROSE: Well, I think that I was the first English guy for 40-odd years to win. That's something sweet. But also it was my first Major Championship. That outweighed everything. I think to go in and win your second, any time you win a Major Championship there's probably history that's made in some way or another. That what goes along with winning these great tournaments. That's why they're so special, because if you do win them, chances are you putting yourself in the record books to some degree. So, obviously, to win it again, most important thing is winning my second Major Championship, but obviously to go back-to-back and '88 and '89 it's been awhile since someone has been able to do that, that would just be the icing on the cake.
Q. Is there a premium on length at this place or is it taken away a little bit? And as a second part to that, can you discuss the greens, just the crowned greens and the challenges that gives you.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I don't think there's a premium on length, because of the way the fairways are running. When I was here a couple weeks ago it was playing pretty long because there was only about five to eight yards of roll out. I believe that's changed. So the way I saw the golf course is hitting a lot of shots about 270, 280, 290 off the tee, which I thought at the time could be chasing lines. You can chase lines out there 270. So for me everybody in the field is going to be able to hit it 270 to 290, given the roll. So I don't think there's a premium. The longer hitters are going to have the ability to get the ball coming into the greens softly from the same areas that most guys will be laying up to. So the guy who can hit a high soft iron shot will probably have a big advantage. That to a certain extent is a power play, so club head speed with an 8-iron versus a 6-iron, I think that gives an advantage. But that obviously answers your second part of the question, to come into these greens, if you're going to hit a running upshot, you got to be very precise. And then you are a little bit in that luck of the golfing gods, which way it bounces coming into the green. So if you can pick your point on the front edge of the green, obviously there's like a third or half of the green that is actually a playable surface, so you're going to have very small landing targets. It's a little bit like Augusta in that sense in that you're playing to zones, rather than just going at the pins or trying to hit greens. So precision iron play is important and being able to control the ball once it lands is important to me.
Q. Justin, Phil was saying that he feels everybody is going to struggle to hit these greens, which gives him perhaps an advantage. Is it a course that's going to suit a short game magician?
JUSTIN ROSE: I think so, yeah. I think that Payne Stewart led here with 41 out of 72 greens, someone was telling me. So that obviously is you got to be pretty resilient with your game. If you think even par's going to win, let's just say, then you've got to up-and-down it 31 times. Obviously you're going to make some birdies, but that just -- it shows you what a test it is for your short game. So absolutely, I agree with that.
Q. I understand when you were here before you took Willie McRae out with you for a round. Talk about what that experience was like and what you learned from him.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, Willie as was just great fun to have out there. I think he was part of the Pinehurst experience for me. Obviously caddied I think here 71 years is just amazing. Everybody around here reveres him, loves him, so I thought it was just a special opportunity for me to be out there with Willie. His knowledge on the golf course is unbelievable. I think any time you are within six or eight feet of the cup most guys can read putts, most caddies can read putts. But where Willie was amazing was if I was short of the green and I was playing to a pin that was 30 on, he would say, okay, land this two yards right of the hole. It's going to go left, right, the left again. And you pretty much aimed it about two yards right of the pin and it would got left, right and left again. It would be pretty close to the pin. So his ability to read long range shots and really know the rub of the green and the terrain was, that's what I thought was very, very useful.
Q. You talked about last year was very emotional for you and you talked about your dad. When you look back now, can you sort of describe how special it was to win this tournament on that day?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. Father's Day is a big day obviously for any dad, but obviously I've been a father now, it's a big day again for me. But having lost my dad it was sort of -- it was a bit of a downer day if you like in the past. But watching good friends of mine as well win the U.S. Open and the embraces that they have been able to have with their father I always thought, oh, that's something I'll never experience. But me winning the U.S. Open was amazing because I felt really connected to my dad in the moment. The fact he wasn't here though, it didn't seem to matter to me, with my feelings. So that's what I'm most grateful about, almost, for winning the U.S. Open was that connection, the ability it gave me to feel the presence of my dad once more.
Q. Your putting coach, David Orr, lives right up the road, what's he meant to your game, does he offer you an advantage this week?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, he's, he loves Pinehurst, he lived in the area for a little while, so he definitely knows the golf course. He's been valuable from that perspective. I think that it's been a slow bone of my short game. Definitely with my putting I wasn't in a great place a couple years ago and I feel a lot more of a natural putter now and I think that that's going to really stand me in good stead for the next 10 years of my career. Putting is a part of the game that should be natural. And when it is natural it's a lot easier to absorb pressure and all those types of things with your mechanics. So I think that the work we have done is going to pay off, it has paid off, but even last year my stroke wasn't great but we built a stroke that we knew would work, we built a stroke knowing what my tendencies were, and that's the kind of knowledge he has. It's very easy to chase perfection in this game and that doesn't always make you a better player. But understanding what you have and how to deal with it, so he's been a very valuable addition to the team, for sure.
Q. The USGA paired you with Mickelson, which you probably weren't too surprised about. What is it about recently when you played with him or as it was last year against him, what is it about him that you seem to really rise to the thing, you seem to be inspired by it?
JUSTIN ROSE: I don't know. I enjoy playing golf with Phil. I enjoy the spirit in which he plays the game, how free he is out there. He's got a great temperament for the game. Nothing seems to phase him. That's something that I think a lot of players can look up to him for. It's hard to play that way. And that stood in good stead throughout his career for sure. So I don't know if there's anything particular that I feel I feed off, it's just been circumstance, I think, more than anything. But I'm also looking to playing with Matt Fitzpatrick, played 18 holes with him at Augusta this year and he's a really nice guy and hopefully he'll do well. This is the kind of golf course I would say that in a sense he grew up on, ball running, he's got a great short game too, so hopefully it will be a great group to be a part of.
Q. From the initial splash you made at the British, to kind of the hunger and chase you made for a Major when you finally get there, what does that do you to mentally and how do you move forward from that?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it's been an interesting sort of reflective period, I suppose. The last few years of my career have been definitely on an upward trend and winning bigger and bigger tournaments, culminating in winning a Major. I haven't been one of the guys who have said okay well I'm going to win X amount of majors in my career. So I really want to treat this Major that I've won now as a gift and give me the ability to now sort of free wheel for the rest of my career, play free, play loose, just go after it, I got really no pressure on me from that perspective anymore. I think a lot of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get over the hump in a Major Championship. Just from an odds standpoint, they're hard to win. So the fact I have won now, I think that really gives me the ability to have fun doing it again. I think and hopefully that will give me an advantage down the stretch in my own future occasions. So I feel like my game is going to put me in the hunt many more times to come, and with that ability to enjoy the moment, hopefully more will come my way. But from my perspective growing up I dreamed about playing Ryder Cup, winning Major championships, I thought I've kind of done that and also now to try to balance my whole life, children, being a good dad, just being truly happy with everything that's happened in my life, I think that it's in the last, I don't know few months, I sort of realized what I have achieved and it's time to embrace it, enjoy it, and let that be the strength for me to go on and win more.
Q. When you had those extra couple of days here, did the soak up the Tradition and the history, what jumped out at you and also when you did it at Merion last year in any way did that help you?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think Merion's a very historic golf course. And it's a very historic golf club. I was aware of the history there with the Hogan plaque and various other things. Here there's similar stat Tuesday and obviously with Payne Stewart and just walking around the club house, I didn't have too much of a concept of the North South Amateur, I didn't realize how big a tournament that was and you look at Walter Hagen and Byron Nelson and all the guys who have played here and won here. So again that was a learning experience and I enjoy absorbing that when I come to these venues of that's obviously why these big championships are played here, because of the likes of the players before us. The big tournaments that they have held here and they have stood up to the test of time.
Q. Four years ago you won the first tournament in the United States at Memorial, and last week a rookie from Japan at 22 years old, Hideki Matsuyama won his first tournament here at Memorial. Do you think he can keep following you and become the U.S. Open champion like yourself?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. I think he's got a great opportunity to do wonderful things in the game. He has all the attributes, I think, to win Major Championships. He hits the ball far, high, he seems to putt well, he seems to have a great temperament. Obviously birdieing the 18th hole last week to force a playoff was -- showed a lot of character. Adam Scott, who plays with him in Presidents Cups and stuff like that really rates him as well. So he has every opportunity to go on and achieve great things and win Major championships and absolutely. He obviously The Open Championship, he proved he did very well I think at Muirfield, if I'm not mistaken, and this is going to be a very similar test to Muirfield, if it stays dry. Who knows, if it rains things could change, but I look to back to the covering at Muirfield and the ground was baked out, brown, hard, he obviously did very well. And that's very similar conditions to what we see out there right now. So he has every opportunity.
Q. A light-hearted question, given how energy sapping this week can be do you dare watch England-Italy on Saturday in the World Cup or could that take what little energy you have left from you? And just a question about the World Cup, a lot of players, athletes in different sports have Masters pools so for the World Cup do you guys do anything?
JUSTIN ROSE: I haven't got a pool but blind faith that England will get far in the tournament prevails. So we'll see. I thought it could be a little bit of a national hero if I'm leading the U.S. Open and I swerve my press conference to go watch the game. I'm not saying that might not happen, but I do have on not such a good note a story about that Travelers Championship I was leading by three I think going into Sunday and England were playing in a big I don't know if it was a quarter final, we always seem to lose quarter finals, but it was a big game, Germany, and it was an emotional football match and then I never really calmed down because that was pre my tee off time, I think I watched it about 10 in the morning, we were playing at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, I ended up going out and losing the golf tournament. So maybe I'll be a little bit more careful about my emotions watching the football.
Q. Last year at Merion have you been back to the club at all since the U.S. Open and do you have a particularly fond memory of the club or what happened after you as you were getting the trophy and beyond that on that Sunday night?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I have had the opportunity to go back. The club has been fantastic, I had a lot of correspondence back and forth with them. They have been really welcoming. I took actually about 10 of my best friends back there, we have a little tournament every year that we call the JR Challenge and it's been going for about 10 years now and so we played Pine Valley, Merion, Aronimink and Somerset. So obviously that was just going back with 10 of my friends was the best moment. We were all in the 18th fairway recreating my shot, not Hogan's shot, but my shot, which was kind of fun to be able to do that. And as we were hitting the shots into the 18th green, my trophy was by the pin and the club had put the 18th pin placement in for us that day. So all my friends could experience that. So that was just a really truly great moment.
Q. You spoke earlier about the pressure you experienced chasing your first win. Do you think that's perhaps affected other English compatriots as well and on a light-hearted note what do you think is more likely, an English winner this week or England lifting the World Cup again?
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, well there's definitely been some opportunities that some English guys have had in the past and I think the more that slip past and slip away, the more it becomes more difficult. But also there's many of us that have, there's about four or five of us that you couldn't really separate it could have been any one of our weeks at anytime. And fortunately for me I was in the right place at the right time and it all lined up. That's not to say that couldn't happen for any one of four or five English players this week, next week, this week, The Open Championship, or the PGA. I mean it could happen at any time. We're all good enough to do it, it's just about in the final moment just having that bit of luck or certainly that confidence to hit the right shot at the right time. So obviously I'm here this week to focus on my game, but a lot of the guys have been very complimentary, clearly they wish it was them to win the Major, but the fact it wasn't they have been very kind that it was me and it would be the same for me this week if it wasn't me and it was one of them. So I would say there's probably more chance of one of us winning the Major than England winning the World Cup potentially. So, sad to say, but.
BETH MAJOR: Justin, thank you very much for joining us today. Thank you for representing the U.S. Open Championship so well for the last year and we wish you well this week.
JUSTIN ROSE: Thank you.
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