Justin Rose in ‘sweet spot’ to win second US open

Justin Rose has never played better and never been more fancied going into a major. And if the humble Englishman’s reply to being informed that he is second favourite for this US Open, rated a shorter price than Rory McIlroy, is any gauge then he has never been more confident. “Those odds makes sense to me,” Rose said.

At 37, he believes he has entered what he calls the “sweet spot” of his career and is ready to act on the old Walter Hagen line that “anyone can win one US Open, but it takes a great player to win two”.

A win in his penultimate event, followed by a top 10 at the Memorial two weeks ago inspires the 2013 US Open champion to look around the field and see nobody superior.

“I’ve been playing well, been on the leaderboard a lot, I’m No3 in the world and a past champion here,” he said. “So they [the bookmakers] have probably got it about right.”

A win would guarantee Rose – a 10-1 shot – the world No1 berth,  although there are six players who could top the rankings come Sunday evening – Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rose, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and McIlroy.

The Englishman feels he has the perfect CV. Of those rivals only Johnson – the current No 1 and 7-1 favourite – is also in his 30s and he is four years junior to Rose.

“It has shifted younger, but I feel like experience and all of those great attributes that have historically held players in good stead and allowed them to win majors into their 30s, that still is incredibly  valuable – that’s never going to go away,” Rose said.

“Players like myself, the Eighties babies, are still fit, still hit the ball a long way, still have all the attributes the young players have – just with added experience. This type of championship is hopefully our best shot, to be honest with you.”

The USGA likes to call their  major “golf’s ultimate test” and Rose embraces that concept. There have been and will remain concerns that the governing body could lose control of this layout, just as it did in 2004, but none of those have been harboured by the man from Hampshire.

“When everything’s in balance it’s kind of boring and I think in life, the closer you get to the edges, that’s where the excitement is,” he said. “This is about who can last and who can handle the continual pressure this championship puts on your game. I like that mentality.”

The same could not be said about McIlroy but it would be unwise to dismiss his chances especially as the rain fell yesterday and the course softened into the Ulsterman’s favour. McIlroy has fixed his recent swing problems and the self-belief levels are brimming.

That pair, together with Spaniard Rahm, afford Europe strong hopes of loosening America’s stranglehold on the majors, as does a supporting cast featuring England’s Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. All four of the reigning major champions – Spieth, Thomas, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka, who is defending here – are under 30 and when this is put alongside the fact that, after last Sunday’s Curtis Cup romp, the US hold the four main transatlantic team events then there is little wonder why the Stars and Stripes flutter so proudly and ominously.

McIlroy ventured the opinion that this march of the fresh-faced Americans can be put down to the resurgence of Tiger Woods. “I think that’s been a huge part of all this,” he said. “A lot of these guys have gotten to know Tiger and been able to say, ‘OK this is what he does’. I think that’s been a huge thing for Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, and them as individuals as well.”

As complimentary as this is, Woods, of course, will only be interested in his own candidacy when he tees off in the company of Johnson and Thomas at 1.47pm local time. If he can replicate his tee-to-green  display at the Memorial two weeks ago and, at the same time, fix his misfiring putter then there is no  reason why he cannot contend.

But, without a major in 10 years and any win of any variety in five years, would have what it takes down the stretch? It would be a  delicious question to see answered. It is by far the biggest storyline,  regardless of Phil Mickelson trying to end his US Open curse and so  become the sixth to complete the career slam.

The left-hander, who turns 48 on Saturday, has finished runner-up in this tournament on six occasions and the fact that four of these has been in front of the New York fans – including here 14 years ago – would only add to the fairytale.

It would be a huge deal for these galleries and for golf as a whole, but a Woods comeback triumph would transcend this state as well as this sport. The Shinnecock Redemption would go down in history.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/golf/2018/06/13/justin-rose-sweet-spot-win-second-us-open/

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