BELEK, Turkey – So, do you still claim Justin Rose as one of your own?
It’s a question – kind of a light-hearted jibe actually – posed to South African media people whenever we’re overseas and looking for an SA angle to beef up our golf stories.
Of course, we’d love Rose, who was born in Johannesburg and lived in SA until he was five, before leaving with his family to live in England, to be “one of us”.
He does still have relatives in South Africa, and he is very fond of our country, but we have to now admit that he really is a true-blue Brit.
But admiration for him? Plenty.
He briefly got to World No 1 six weeks ago. Then Brooks Koepka took over. But if “Rosie” can win this week’s Turkish Airlines Open and defend his 2017 title, he’ll be back on top.
He’s made a great start on that quest, as he is leading by two shots on 12-under-par after Friday’s second-round 65.
Rose is the consummate professional, so hard-working and dedicated that he thoroughly deserves all his success.
And he’s downright humble and polite, too.
“So, to win this week and get back to No 1 would be a great double,” he observed here in Turkey.
“I said a while back that I wanted to get to world No 1 by winning the BMW a month or so ago, and I got there by finishing second there.
“So yeah, here in Turkey would be a great place to knock off two goals of mine, which is to get back to No 1 and defend a title which up until now in my career I’ve never been able to do.
“But thinking about a potential double won’t help me win this tournament.
“I just need to concentrate on playing my best golf, and I always play my best golf by stripping away thoughts rather than adding them, so I need to keep it simple.”
We did it Dad. World Number 1⃣ Thank you so much to my family, friends & everybody that has helped me achieve this incredible goal. Also, my sponsors @TaylorMadeGolf @adidasGolf @Hublot @Mastercard @ZurichNAnews @MorganStanley @LamkinGrips Thank you! #Team🌹 pic.twitter.com/geZgcpTR7U— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) September 10, 2018
The 2013 US Open champion and current Olympic gold medallist credits those smallest of golf shots playing a major part in his rise up the rankings – and that’s putting.
“My team had this plan to improve my putting from three to eight feet, so I built some putting drills to focus on this part of my game.
“And, this year on the PGA Tour at least, where the stats are quite robust and you can look into it a bit deeper, I was No 1 four to eight feet on tour.”
Rose has had 23 top-10s in his last 30 starts, which in a game as fickle as golf is remarkable consistency. And he knows it.
“The level of consistency is something I’m very proud of. If someone had told me another player would have 23 top-10s out of 30 events, that’s unbelievable, but when you yourself is actually doing it, it doesn’t feel as special.”
Maybe so, Justin. But you are a special golfer.
And it is nice to know you have South African roots, and you still love our country.