Justin Rose’s Open warm-up goes swimmingly

JUSTIN ROSE describes it as the most James Bond thing he does, gliding through the blue waters off the Bahamas, spear in hand, seeking out dinner during his downtime.

Defending champion Justin Rose, left, and Robert Dick with the Scottish Open trophy yesterday. Picture: Getty

This week he is hunting out another Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title, hoping to become the first reigning champion to retain the trophy. The fact Rose will attempt it without having to stave off a threat from Rory McIlroy has been well documented, the World No 1 absent due to an ankle injury sustained in a kickabout with his mates.

Some have described that as an ill-judged indulgence in the build-up to a busy period which was scheduled to include this week’s Gullane event and his hoped-for defence of the Claret Jug on the hallowed fairways and greens of the St Andrews Old Course but Rose refuses to jump on that bandwagon.

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“I think Rory has to keep doing what he’s been doing all his life. I know him pretty well and I think he’s a guy who likes to live his life. He likes to have fun. He likes to get his mind away from golf. I think he’s the kind of guy that, if he practised 24/7 and got too much in his own head, it’s not going to help him. We obviously all love the way he plays and he plays really free, and that doesn’t really go hand in hand with somebody who wraps himself up in practice all day.”

But life is a learning experience and Rose is sure that the hours of rehab will give the Irishman time to ponder his actions. “It’s a tough question, middle of the season, before a major championship, yeah, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Yeah, he probably wouldn’t do it again. It’s unfortunate for him obviously and, yeah, it’s brought up the question of what we should do at this time of year, but hey, you should live your life. There’s a lot of pressure on all of us. I guess you can look at how you sort of get that release, and whether that’s messing around with your mates because it’s so much pressure on you to stay focused all of the time.”

It was only a few days ago that former US Open Champion Rose was quoted as saying that, to switch on 100 per cent when in tournament mode, you have to find a way to switch off 100 per cent when you step away from the course.

After all, he knows what it is like to live with expectations, both self-imposed and those placed on him by others. Like McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, the young men currently setting the pace at the top of the world rankings, Rose caught the world’s eye as a prodigious amateur talent at the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale. Initially he found living up to that tough but has since found a way to see out tournaments with a class and consistency that has earned him greater notoriety, in the USA as well as in the UK, winning at least one USPGA event in every one of the past six years and benefiting from the belief and kudos that come with adding a major title to the haul.

He has found it easier to find that balance since he and his family swapped the bustle of Orlando for a more laid-back life in the Bahamas.

“I’m not the biggest daredevil in the world but anything involving water relaxes me, so I’ve taken up spear-fishing. That’s about the most James Bond thing that I do, he says,” admitting that it could be a great way to lose a toe but making it clear that age, experience and a certain amount of fear prevents him from risking it in the build-up to crucial periods of the season.

“Living in the Bahamas now, I found that’s what the locals do and what some of my friends do, so I’ve been roped into it too. I’m not particularly comfortable in and around the water just yet but I’ve had a couple of cracks at it and managed to catch a lobster to bring home for dinner, which was quite satisfying and it’s good to learn new skills and push myself to do different things to switch off and free my mind from golf. That is probably the most daredevilish thing I’ve done.”

The biggest challenge is in finding a way to again conquer the links course which provided his golfing education as a youngster but have become distant acquaintances since his move to the States and the perfectly manicured fairways and more forgiving rough of the “country club” set-ups there.

The Gullane course offers a different set of conundrums to those which Rose solved at Royal Aberdeen last summer but, while he confesses that he has been slightly distracted in the build-up with thoughts wandering to next week’s Open Championship, he is keen to defy the odds by adding the 2015 Scottish Open title to the one he won in style 12 months ago

He is also driven by a determination to deliver a performance and finish at the home of golf which would surpass his achievements as a teenage amateur.

Rose added; “Half your mind is on this week and half your mind is on next week until Thursday morning, and then we are all competitors.”

He will be relying heavily on his caddie today as he plays the East Lothian course for the first time, having preferred to spend the beginning of the week refamiliarising himself with the Old Course. “The Scottish Open has a great field and it’s a tournament everyone wants to do well in. But there’s a big reason for playing this week, considering the impact it can have on next week. I think last year it helped the way I felt going into The Open Championship. Sometimes winning the week before a major is not always the best thing, but I felt like I really enjoyed the experience. I enjoyed the flow. So I’m kind of changing my mentality a little bit for the majors. But, on Thursday morning, it’s all about this week.”