Justin Rose works hard to improve game

Putting has been problematic at Augusta


Justin Rose didn’t bring the subject up, but when asked about the possibility of one day being the No. 1-ranked player in the world, he didn’t shy away from it either.

“It’s doable,” said Rose, who has been ranked as high as a career-best fifth this season. “It would be a one- or two-year plan, obviously. I think it’s possible.

“It’s not a huge goal of mine,” the Englishman said. “It’s not the only thing I’m striving toward. It will just come by virtue of playing some great golf. That’s what I’m focusing on. … I’m really enjoying the game right now. I’m enjoying the pursuit of improvement for sure. That’s going to help me be the best I can be and ultimately have a chance to have a run at (number) one.”

If he never makes it to No. 1, it won’t be for lack of effort. The 32-year-old is serious about improving his game, and the time he’s put in shows it’s working.

Coming into this season, Rose has won at least one tournament in each of the past three years on the PGA Tour, with two wins in 2010.

Setting goals each season is one way some players try to improve. Rose doesn’t go that route.

“I sort of have the notion that you can almost limit yourself sometimes with your goals, and if you create too lofty goals, you kind of then don’t buy into them,” he said.”

“If you look at a piece of paper and put things: Win all four majors, win seven tournaments, have 20 top‑10s, you kind of look at it and go: ‘Ah, do you really believe that?’” he said. “But I believe in the process. I believe in what I’m doing. I believe in how I can improve and where I can improve, and you know, that’s what I tend to focus on, and I believe that good things will flow from there.”

One area Rose believes he has improved is in his putting.

“I’m really, really, really happy with my putting,” he said. “Putting comes and goes, I guess, a little bit. Sometimes you see the line or the speed of the greens change a little bit, and some weeks you just get your feel perfectly. But my understanding of what I’m trying to achieve in my putting is rock solid right now. There’s no more searching, and that’s a really nice feeling, to go to the putting green. I’m confident in my stroke, I’m not trying to change anything, I believe in myself.”

In the Masters, where Rose has two top-10 finishes (he tied for eighth last year) in seven starts, putting is paramount. Rose’s confidence on the greens this year bodes well for him.

“There have been a couple of times at Augusta in the last few years where I’ve putted poorly,” Rose said. “I’ve given myself a great chance to do well there and just haven’t putted well.”

That would include last year, when his 122 putts tied him for 47th among the 63 players who made the cut.

“Things have been going much, much better from that perspective (this season),” Rose said. “I feel clear in my mind. I’m really looking forward to that (getting on the greens at Augusta National). I have putted well at Augusta in the past and I do generally like fast greens. Cleaning up my stroke has been great.”

Rose has had his share of success at the Masters. He’s led the first round three times (2004, 2007 and 2008), was the second-round leader in 2004, started the third round that year in the lead and shared a piece of the lead late in 2007’s final round.

“I can definitely play Au­gus­ta,” Rose said. “It suits my eye. I feel good on it. But it suits a lot of guys’ game. It suits Phil (Mickelson), Tiger (Woods), Rory (McIlroy), Kee­gan (Bradley), Dustin (Johnson) because of their ball flight. I don’t think I have an advantage over those guys, but it is a venue I turn up to and feel good.”

He opened with three 72s last year, then closed with 68. His third-round 72 could have been much better.

“I was 4-under playing 15 (that day),” Rose said. “I hit a lovely shot onto the green that stayed on the green for a second and then dribbled its way down into the water and I made six, and four-putted the next green and ended up shooting even (72). I felt like I was virtually 5-under on my third round.”

Justin Rose working on short game as he prepares for Masters