Justin Rose warns of 'tension heightening' over Saudi waiver decision
At the end of a disappointing year, which included a real hammer blow as he missed out on the Ryder Cup, the Englishman is feeling buoyant about the 2022 campaign.
For some of the world’s top players, an early assignment will be the Saudi International, but only if they get a waiver from the PGA Tour and European Tour to tee up in an event that is now part of the Asian Tour.
Rose, who played in two of the three editions of the Saudi event when it was on the European Tour schedule, isn’t on a list of confirmed players for the $5 million tournament in early February, but, along with lots of others, he’s monitoring the situation.
“I think if the PGA Tour maybe doesn’t give the releases, I think it is only going to heighten the tensions around what is trying to go on right now in the world of golf and amongst the players,” said the 2013 US Open champion.
That tension is being caused by Greg Norman, in his new role as CEO of LIV Golf Investments, having $200 million at his disposal for a proposed Saudi-influenced Super Golf League, which the PGA Tour and European Tour would rather didn’t materialise.
“In my mind, the PGA Tour needs to keep the players on side,” added Rose, who, at 41, is able to offer a knowledgeable perspective on the matter.
“Obviously Saudi is controversial, but I’ve been down there and I enjoyed my time there. It’s actually a fun golf tournament and a good golf course. Listen, they are trying to edge towards a more socially-acceptable stance on their policies and you’ve got to start somewhere, right?”
Two-time winner Dustin Johnson heads that list of confirmed players along with Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson, with Olympic champion Xander Schauffele also having committed to being at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
“Players deserve the opportunity to play around the world and also capitalise,” said Rose, who has landed title triumphs in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia. “Guys like Xander and (Open champion) Collin Morikawa deserve the chance to play in the Middle East and show off their games.
“It’s good for growing the game of golf and it’s part of your responsibility as a talented young golfer who is doing incredibly well to do that the best you can. A lot of these guys are now the idols that kids are looking up to and, if you can showcase yourself in different markets, it can only be good.
“A lot of the young Americans have the opportunity to just stay home because the tour is so great. So I think it is good for the world of golf that they do travel. I think that’s really important.”
Speaking in Bahamas during the Hero World Challenge, Rose also offered his view on Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy, which is up in the air after Lee Westwood ruled himself out for the 2023 match in Italy due to the fact he’s still in the world’s top 50 and feeling far from believing his days of winning are over.
“I thought it was Westy’s, so I am slightly surprised, but my mind says good on him,” said Rose. “If you are looking at conventional wisdom, when you are into your 50s is a great time to have it. If I look at it myself, I’d love to do 2030 down the road when I’ll be 50. But, if I am playing great then, that has to be sacrosanct, really.
“I’ve noticed Lee on social media recently and he’s training hard, working at his game and looking for speed still. It looks like he’s putting in the effort. It’s one thing to say I want to play well still, but he’s actually doing the work.
“The minute you think about retirement, you are on a slippery slope and I kind of get where he’s at on that, to be honest. If he still feels like he can produce some good golf, then maybe the Ryder Cup captaincy is showing that you think you already have one foot out of the door.”
Henrik Stenson, Rose’s main Ryder Cup partner in five appearances, is now one of the leading contenders to succeed Padraig Harrington, with Englishman Luke Donald also believed to be in the frame.
“There are not a ton of viable options when you think about it and Westy has probably thrown a spanner in the works for a few lads down the way now,” said Rose, laughing, of a belief that it would have been Westwood in 2023, Ian Poulter in 2025 at Bethpage Black and Graeme McDowell at Adare Manor in 2027.
“Henrik is very organised, has tonnes of experience and no stone would be left unturned in terms of preparation. I’ve been by his side winning points on many occasions and he’s a fearless competitor with a big heart. He’s also got that dry sense of humour and it would be a good laugh under him as well.”
No matter who’s at the helm in Rome, Rose is determined to be back in the trenches. “It has made me more selfish about what I need to do with my game and not try to appease other people and play at places that don’t necessarily suit me, as I have been doing for 15-20 years,” he said of missing out on the defeat at Whistling Straits.
“I have to look after my game now and I think that’s what I have realised. Going into next season, I need to make good decisions about where I want to play and have a schedule that suits me.”
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