Justin Rose may have “waddled” across the green with a stony expression on his face after rolling in a monster putt on the 17th hole in the 2012 Ryder Cup singles but, inside, he was keeping the lid on raw emotion, writes Martin Dempster.
“I wanted to cannonball into the lake,” said the Englishman, smiling, as he recalled holing that crucial putt against Phil Mickelson, then repeating the feat from close range at the last as he helped pull of the “Miracle at Medinah”.
It was final-day gutsy efforts on the outskirts of Chicago from Rose, pictured, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Paul Lawrie, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood that set the stage for Martin Kaymer to ensure the trophy stayed in European hands on that occasion before Francesco Molinari beat Tiger Woods in the anchor match to seal a stunning 14½-13½ victory. “I think it has to be my greatest moment as a Ryder Cupper,” recalled the Englishman of the point he delivered against Mickelson after being one down with two holes to play.
“I think that was because of the momentum which it created for the team.
“You’re not quite aware of when you are completing your match, but I think it happened at a time where people watching at home suddenly started to believe that we could do this and then the comeback was on.
“I had a putt from about ten feet to stay one down with two to play, and I made that to give myself half a chance. I remember walking onto the 17th tee and just forcing myself to stay aggressive, because in the back of your mind, you’d be like, ‘okay, let’s just get a half out of this match’, but I knew that the job was to deliver a point. We needed to have an historic comeback and a monumental comeback.
“The putt on 17 was unbelievable, and that’s what kind of people remember. But that only got me all square. So my funny reaction of waddling up there and not really going crazy was because I knew that I was only all square. I had to go to 18 and win the hole. I remember consciously walking as slowly as I could to get the ball out of the hole, get to the 18 tee and then continue to play 18 well.
“So, that putt on 17 means nothing if I lose 18, and I was very conscious of that at the time. The putt I was most proud of was 18 to finish it off, and that’s not necessarily remembered or talked about it. But, as a player, the one on 18, that’s the one that counts.”
Two years after that match, Rose was top-scorer as he led Paul McGinley’s team to a 16½-11½ success at Gleneagles. He now heads into this week’s encounter as the newly-crowned FexEx Cup champion, having held his nerve to birdie the final hole in Atlanta on Sunday to pick up a $10 million prize. “The team have had fun,” he said of that windfall. “Apparently, all the drinks are on my tab this week!”
Thomas Bjorn, the European captain, admitted he had identified Rose for an “internal role” this week but wasn’t prepared to divulge exactly what that was. The man himself is keen to keep letting his clubs do the talking rather than trying to be inspirational to his team-mates through whatever he might be able to offer vocally.
“I haven’t tried to be anything that I’m not,” admitted Rose when asked how his role has changed in the team room over the years. “I feel like if I want to say something, I’ll say something. I think it’s really important to be who I am, and that’s going to be the guy that’s hopefully going to deliver some points. That’s what talks the most is earning points, leading by example rather than talk.
“That’s what Thomas has encouraged me to do. He’s encouraged me to be myself, and that’s why he’s been such a fantastic captain so far. He trusted all my decision-making to get here and be ready to play and ready to earn points. That extends to the week and to the team room. Just be natural and be yourself.
“Sure, my confidence through the years has probably grown. I’ve been able to play well in Ryder Cups, and if I can share experiences that are going to be helpful and meaningful to other players, of course I’m going to do that, but I’m not going to try and be anything that I’m not.”