English Duo Aim For More Glory

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Olympic Gold Medallist Justin Rose and European No. 1 Tommy Fleetwood Spoke Exclusively To Golf Digest India About Their Goals For The New Season

One created history by becoming the first-ever Olympic gold medallist for Great Britain and the other became a runaway European No. 1 last year. One is more athletic in his looks and the other, with flowing hair and stubble, seems an avant-garde model.

However, one thing that is common between the English duo of Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood is their unflinching determination to excel on the world stage and making 2018 the most memorable season for themselves. And how?

Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood battled for the Race to Dubai title during the season-ending DP World Tour Championship and they played two rounds together at Albany’s Championship Course in Nassau (Bahamas) for the US$ 3.5 million Hero World Challenge.

While Fleetwood ended tied-3rd along with former World No. 1 Jordan Spieth, Rose had a tied-5th finish in the PGA Tour invitational.

“THE HERO CHALLENGE IS A GREAT ADDITION ON A TUESDAY NIGHT. THE WAY THEY ORGANISE IT WITH LIGHTS AND FIRE BURSTS, IT LOOKS COOL. BUT I AM A TRADITIONALIST AND BELIEVE THAT GOLF IS BEST PLAYED 72 HOLES STROKEPLAY. I UNDERSTAND THERE IS A NEED TO BRING NEW FORMATS TO INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO THE GAME. BUT YOU KNOW TEST CRICKET – 5 DAYS, MANY GUYS LOVE THAT, SAME WAY IS 4-DAY GOLF.” – JUSTIN ROSE, WORLD NO. 6 GOLFER AND OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALLIST

Asked what keeps him motivated, having achieved individual Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, Rose told Golf Digest India: “Every day I wake up, I try to do little things well. I try to take care of my body, work on my mental side, try to take care of my technique and put it together in tournament golf. There’s still a lot of things to achieve for me. A career Grand Slam in the Majors will be just my ultimate dream or goal. There’s three Major Championships I haven’t won, that keeps me motivated.”

Rose had won the US Open, one of the Majors, in 2013 and aims to go past 6-time Major champion and English legend Nick Faldo in the future. Faldo was World No. 1 for 97 weeks which saw him pocket 3 Masters and as many British Open titles.

“If I did that (Career Slam) I will try to chase down Nick Faldo’s record of 6 Majors. But right now I am just focusing on improving and winning more regularly. You can’t force it to happen. You got to trust your skill sets and make it happen,” added Rose, who clinched 3 international titles in 2017 along with 12 other top-10s.

Being an Albany resident like tournament host Tiger Woods, Rose insisted that the golf superstar will spring some great surprises in 2018.

“The golf world still wants to see Tiger Woods play golf. For me, he moves the needle. People are already interested in his journey, his story. It’s fantastic to have him back. I think he looks good and he is playing really well. I just enjoy seeing him smile and feeling good. He is hitting the ball well on the range and driving the ball far. The fact he is out of pain means that he has a lot of opportunities going forward. I think everyone needs to be patient and not think of him coming out of the gates and winning. Knowing him I am sure he is going to surprise us all,” the 8-time PGA Tour winner said with a smile.

Rose’s sentiments were echoed by compatriot Fleetwood.

“For me and guys in my generation, we have been watching him do those amazing things. Everyone knows what he brings to tournaments, the hype etc. Hopefully he can stay fully fit now and keep improving and you never know what he’s capable of doing. Golf is very grateful to have Tiger back,” Fleetwood said.

For professional golfers, managing injuries has always been a big issue as long flights, less time for relaxation and tournament pressure all combine to force an injury. Rose had also encountered a big blow to his spine just before the Rio Olympics, pretty similar to Tiger Woods.

“I struggled in 2016 just before Rio Olympics. I really had a tough time playing. I had the same kind of lower back trouble. Blew out my L-4, L-5 disc and had time away. Even though I won the gold medal in Rio still 2016 was a really hard year. You never quite know with an injury. It can affect your confidence too, you can’t  practice as much as you used to,” Rose revealed.

2017 was an eventful year for Fleetwood. He left respected coach Pete Cowen and returned to his childhood teacher Alan Thompson. He then hired his best friend Ian Finnis to be his caddie and even tied the knot with longtime partner Claire Craig in the Bahamas just after the Hero World Challenge.

So what are his hopes for 2018?

“At the start of the year, I felt that my game had improved and one of the goals was to win a tournament again. I won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and later the HNA Open de France. The Race to Dubai was never the goal at the start of the year. I kind of excelled this year and I want to keep rolling the same way in the new season.

“2017 was a clean slate. I will be starting off on top of good building blocks, so I look to improve and see what goals I can make. I am going to play more on the PGA Tour and some of my goals will be revolving around that. 2018 is also the Ryder Cup year and will have to see how to balance my calendar,” the 26-year-old added.

With the Ryder Cup being staged in Europe, at Le Golf National in Paris, the Englishmen will look to wrest the trophy back from Team USA, who had excelled in home conditions at Hazeltine in 2016. Interestingly, USA have not won the Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993.

(Read more in the February issue of Golf Digest India. Download here.)

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