Los Angeles – US Open champion Justin Rose will kick off his 2014 campaign at Riviera Country Club this week in what the Englishman hopes is a warm-up for the WGC Accenture Match Play.
Rose, ranked fifth in the world, has been sidelined by a shoulder injury that saw him miss the European Tour's HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi and the US PGA Tour stop at Torrey Pines.
The 33-year-old, who thinks he hurt himself hurling a golf ball to his caddie, admits he was keen to get back out and begin his build up to the prestigious Match Play and the first major of the year, the Masters, in April.
“A lot of hard work went into me being here,” Rose said this week at Riviera, the historic club in the Pacific Palisades known for its connections to Hollywood and Ben Hogan.
“It was a race against time to really get back playing and get back strong. If I'm honest, I've only really been hitting balls, drivers, for about a week, 10 days now. So it really has been down to the wire.”
Rose was intrigued by the prospect of tackling a dry and firm Riviera.
Often the course is soft and soggy during this tournament, held in Southern California's usual rainy season, but this year the weather promises to be hot and dry.
“That makes this course a challenge and one that I enjoy, but for me, I've always felt like I've played well at Riviera,” Rose said. “I've never really contended to win because I've never been able to put four rounds together here but I think I shot everything from 64, 65, 66, 67ÄI think I've had all the numbers, but I've never put four together.
“But it is a course I enjoy ... and hopefully four rounds can be strung together this week.”
And he hopes the tendinitis in his right shoulder will prove to be fully healed.
Rose said he thought he irritated it by throwing a ball 60 or 70 yards to his caddie last August during The Barclays, where he finished second.
He said he was feeling the injury at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November and while it didn't require surgery it turned out to need more rest and care than his Christmas break provided.
Rose is the highest-ranked player in a field that also includes defending champion John Merrick and red-hot Jimmy Walker.
Merrick posted his first US PGA Tour title last year when he parred the second playoff hole to beat Charlie Beljan.
Seven of the first 10 winners of the 2013-14 US tour season are also in the field, a group led by three-time winner Walker.
Walker, who earned his first PGA Tour title after 188 events at the Frys.com Open in October, has followed up with victories at the Sony Open in January and at Pebble Beach last week.
He has shot to 24th in the world rankings and appears headed for a Ryder Cup berth.
“I've worked hard to get here and to be in this position is really cool,” Walker said at Pebble Beach after making his clutch par putt at the final hole to win. “It's always been one of my ambitions to play in the Ryder Cup.” – Sapa-AFP