It’s a shade under 200 miles from Shinnecock Hills Golf Club to Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., where Justin Rose achieved his greatest triumph: winning the 2013 U.S. Open Championship. The last half-decade has passed by quickly for the No. 3-ranked player in the world.
“It doesn’t feel like five years ago since we were lifting the trophy,” said Rose. “It actually seems quite like yesterday.”
As the championship returns to another historic venue in the Northeast, Rose hopes that he can turn back the clock to, well, yesterday. While Rose is one of the most pleasant and accessible players in the game, don’t mistake the Englishman’s politeness for a lack of fire. He has missed the cut in the last two U.S. Opens and turns 38 next month. The clock is not truly ticking – yet – but Rose is keenly aware that he needs to step on the gas to collect more major titles.
“I was  when I won at Merion. My approach was, OK, between 30 and 40, that’s going to be my opportunity to really go out and get things done,” he said. “Now, I’m thinking 45. I’m stretching it out a bit.”
Rose appears to be taking his own advice seriously. After winning four times worldwide dating back to last October, including the PGA Tour’s Fort Worth Invitational three weeks ago, he arrives at Shinnecock in peak form and facing a course that has stolen his heart after a rocky first date.
“I’m really excited about Shinnecock this week,” he said. “I played here in 2004 and didn’t have the fondest memories of the place. But that actually changed. I came back here [in 2012] and just played with a couple of members and saw the course more width-wise as we’re seeing this week, and it completely changed my impression. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Rose has been calculating in his U.S. Open preparation, balancing research with rest. He played here three days last week before the hectic pace of championship week arrived and, like an undergrad preparing for a final exam, hopes to ace the ultimate test.
“I spent some days here when it was nice and quiet, which I think is the best time to learn a golf course,” he said. “It’s a fun golf course to learn.
“Now I’m coming in here off a little break to freshen up. That’s what you need to be at a U.S. Open. You need to be mentally fresh. I feel like I’ve done a good job with that.”
While the youth movement at golf’s top ranks shows no signs of abating, Rose is optimistic he is in the sweet spot.
“I think players like myself and Adam Scott and Sergio [Garcia], the ‘80s babies, we’re that generation that’s somewhat in the middle,” said Rose. “We’re still fit, still healthy, still hit the ball a long way, still have all the attributes the young players have, just with added experience. These types of championships are hopefully some of our best shots.”
Starting at 7:29 a.m. EDT on Thursday, and playing with Louis Oosthuizen and Jimmy Walker, Rose will take the first steps toward seeing if his best shot is still good enough.
Greg Midland is the director of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.