Gracious and magnanimous would best describe Justin Rose’s handling of his playoff loss to Sergio Garcia at the Masters.
But underneath the brave professional face beats a gutted heart.
“I was genuinely happy for (Garcia), but at the same token it’s a dream to win that tournament, so I was disappointed,” Rose said. “What I tell people is I wake up in the morning and I’m fine. I don’t have a hole in my heart. But when I think about it, I’m disappointed. It doesn’t consume me. I’m fine. It’s just golf.”
Throughout the summer after his near-miss at Augusta, Rose stumbled through the big events. He missed cuts at the U.S. Open and PGA. He lagged harmlessly outside the top 50 at the Players and British Open.
His doldrums cleared when during the PGA Tour’s playoffs he heard about his son's perspective on what happened at Augusta.
“Leo, my little boy who never watches golf, came out last week and went right up to someone and said, ‘Yeah, Sergio beat my dad fair and square,’” Rose said at the Tour Championship. “That’s kind of how it played out. I’ve been moaning about it for four months.”
Whatever post-Masters funk Rose might have experienced was buried in a sustained run of fair play since the PGA. He strung together 10 consecutive top-10 finishes globally, with three wins including the WGC event in China, to climb back from 15th to No. 5 in the world rankings.
As one of only five players in history to win tournaments on six continents – joining Hall of Famers Gary Player, Hale Irwin, David Graham and Bernhard Langer – the 37-year-old Rose would like to burnish his resume with more than his 2013 U.S. Open win and 2016 Olympic gold medal.
Like his peers Garcia and Adam Scott, he believes the post-Tiger class of former “young guns” can do more.
“I think we’ve all underachieved as well,” he said. “Would we have settled for one major when we were 18? No. But it’s hard out here. ... I’m not over yet. If I win another major and it’s one that’s not the U.S. Open, I feel like I’m halfway to a grand slam. That’s the way my mentality is. I’ve still got eight years of good golf, so I’m pretty good at trying to peak at the right time. I hope to steal one or two more.”
As someone who’s never missed the cut at Augusta and owns a pair of runner-ups among his five top-10 finishes in 12 starts, the Masters remains his top bucket-list item.
“I really feel like this is a tournament that I can still go on to win,” Rose said before leaving last April. “I’d like to win three or four green jackets, but one would be enough, you know. I just want to win here. So I have plenty more looks, and I feel good about it happening.”
He’ll have an extra scar to overcome to do it, knowing he held a two-shot lead with Garcia facing a penalty on No. 13 and got chased down at the end. But Rose doesn’t dwell on regrets.
“I never took my foot of the gas,” he said. “I was just incredibly comfortable at Augusta and just didn’t feel like I was going to get beaten that day.
“Yeah, I would say this one probably is one that slipped by, for sure. I mean, I can’t pick holes on my performance. Could I have made the (par) putt on 17? Of course I could. But for the most part, I’m not going to sit here and second-guess one or two shots. I really stepped up. I felt great. I felt in control. I felt positive. I felt confident.
“Barring a great comeback from Sergio, it was mine to cruise to the house. But it’s not always that easy. You’re going to win majors and you’re going to lose majors, but you’ve got to be willing to lose them.”