ANTALYA, Turkey – Ken Rose first placed a putter in his son Justin's hands at the age of one. That was back in Johannesburg in 1981 when the Rose family still lived in South Africa, and it inspired a life-long love and dedication of the sport in Justin.
That love and dedication paid off Sunday in the Turkish Airlines Open at the Regnum Carya Golof Resort when Rose jun won the tournament after beating Haotong Li, a 23-year-old shotmaking magician from China, at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.
Not only did it give Rose, who moved with his family from South Africa to England at the age of five, victory in one of the European Tour's elite Rolex events which all have purses of $7-million and more, but he now regains the world No 1 ranking after relinquishing it to Brooks Koepka six weeks ago.
“Maybe it's even sweeter getting back to No 1 the second time around,” he gushed after the last putt had dropped.
It is also the first time in Rose's career that he has successfully defended a title as he also won here last year – refreshed, it should be said, by a holiday in South Africa with his SA-based brother and grandmother prior to the tournament.
When Rose won the 2013 US Open, he tearfully dedicated that Major triumph to his dad who passed away from cancer in 2002 aged just 57.
And no doubt Ken Rose would have looked down Sunday from wherever he is now, extremely proud of one of world golf's hardest workers and true ambassadors of the game following another worldwide win.
Rose and Li tied at the top Sunday after 72 holes of regulation play on 17-under 267, the Englishman after a 68 and the man from Shanghai following a 71. Rose led by two with four to play but Li closed the gap with the shot of the tournament at the 540-yard par-5 15th where his fabulous approach from the rough ended about 60cm from the cup for a tap-in eagle three.
Rose, for his part, three-putted from a long way and they were dead even. Rose birdied 16, and dropped at 17 and both dropped at 18, necessitating a play-off in which Li capitulated after a nervy three-putt from only about 10 feet.
Justin Rose MBE, 2016 Olympic gold medallist and now the owner of 23 professional wins, is a tribute both to South Africa and England as today he flies the English flag on tour.
Once, back in 2007, his coach Nick Bradley urged Rose to remember his roots. “I didn't say to him 'Let the English come out in you',” said Bradley, “I said to him 'Justin, just remember Gary Player. Let the South African come out.' “
Justin Rose. Since August 2017.
Officially the world's best golfer. pic.twitter.com/UbEf1McpHf
South Africans at the tournament
Thomas Aiken was the best of the South Africans here with a tie for 10th on 272 after a final round 70. Then came Darren Fichardt on 275 (T23) and Erik van Rooyen on 278 (T35) after a solid final round 67.
Dean Burmester closed with a disappointing 75 for 280, with Trevor Immelman – on the comeback trail – on that same number, improving each day with rounds of 72, 71, 69 and 68, the 68 including a double-bogey six at his last hole, the brutal par-4 10th, where he visited the water hazard.
Rose is not playing this week's Nedbank Challenge, citing family commitments.
SA scores are:
272 - Thomas Aiken 71 65 66 70 (T10)
275 - Darren Fichardt 68 68 68 71 (T23)
278 - Erik van Rooyen 67 71 73 67 (T35)
280 - Dean Burmester 72 65 68 75, Trevor Immelman 72 71 69 68 (T47)
283 - George Coetzee 70 70 72 71 (T58)
284 - Richard Sterne 74 69 68 73 (T60)
287 - Brandon Stone 74 70 70 73 (T72)