WORLD No. 5 Justin Rose is hoping he won’t need to turn up in a flashy car to be in the fast lane in this year’s Open at Muirfield.
Rose and fellow Englishman Ian Poulter were young attention-seekers when the East Lothian course last staged the event in 2002. They turned up one day in an Austin Powers Jaguar but Rose is aiming to let his golf put him in the spotlight this time around.
“There will be nothing like that this time,” he said, with a smile, after earning a share of the first-round lead in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship. “I’m happy to fly under the radar these days.”
Rose finished just outside the top 20 in that event 11 years ago, having been one of the lucky ones to complete their third round before the weather turned nasty.
“I played with Tiger (Woods) the first two days, which at the time was a big deal for a 21-year-old,” he recalled. “I had a decent first day (shooting a 68) then a poor second day (75) and teed off early on the Saturday. That was the day when the horrendous weather came in and I shot 68.
“I was back home at the house having a cup of tea and found myself climbing the leaderboard rapidly, ending up in joint-third place with a round to go.”
A closing 72 dropped him to joint-22nd at the finish as Ernie Els claimed the Claret Jug after a four-man play-off. “It was a bit of bunfight on the last day,” he added. “I think there might have been 15 guys within a couple shots of the lead.”
Four years earlier, Rose had paid a less memorable visit to the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. Playing in the Amateur Championship, which was won by Sergio Garcia, he lost to Scot James Bunch in the second round. Happily, that disappointment didn’t cloud his opinion of the course and he can’t wait to get back to Muirfield this summer.
“It’s a great venue and one I’ll be preparing hard for,” said Rose, who opened with 67 in the UAE capital and was soon leading on his own when the second round got underway today.
Rose and Ernie Els found themselves playing in a two-ball after Robert Rock, the defending champion but nine off the lead after a first-day 76, withdrew after telling officials he was feeling unwell.
After starting with six straight pars from the tenth, Rose picked up his first birdie of the day at the par-4 16th, holing from five feet, to be out in 35.
He went two clear of fellow first-round pacesetter Jamie Donaldson after picking up another shot at the second.
The leader then had only his second bogey of the event at the next but bounced back straight away by rolling in a 15-foot birdie putt at the fourth.
In perfect conditions, Lothians star Stephen Gallacher birdied two of his first three holes to jump up the leaderboard after a first round 76, along with fellow Scot Paul Lawrie, who covered his opening 12 holes in two-under.