Justin Rose reckons he is close to reproducing the form that made him a Major champion.
The North Hants GC star is hoping to become the first player for 25 years to successfully defend the US Open title at Pinehurst this week.
And the 33-year-old believes a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament last weekend will actually help his bid to retain the trophy he’s grown so attached to over the last 12 months.
“I hope that [missed cut] could be a blessing in disguise,” said Rose, whose two-shot victory at Merion last year saw him become the first English champion since Tony Jacklin in 1970. “It allowed me to spend a couple of extra days at Pinehurst and get a look at things, similar to what I did at Merion last year.
“You see the true golf course by going there early. That is what we got at Merion. The whole perception during the tournament is not as enjoyable as the members get to see and experience for 51 weeks of the year. It is very hard to sample that when there are 20,000 people there from Monday morning. This is a much purer experience, it helps you to see clearer.
“Nothing pointed to me winning the US Open at this time last year. My game just now is remarkably similar to then. I remember trudging around Merion the week before the tournament, trying to find my swing, not playing well and things began to click. I am fiddling around with a few swing thoughts and feelings just now as well.”
Nobody has successfully defended the title since Curtis Strange in 1989, and as part of his build-up, the Fleet ace has employed the caddying services of the legendary Willie McRae.
The 81-year-old has been carrying bags at Pinehurst since he was 10 and Rose is delighted to have such experience on board.
“He has been awesome, a great character,” he added. “I am not sure if he could bend down to read a putt because he might not get back up again. But he knows every break on these greens, including to chip on to. They are so tricky, so that is a big thing to learn about.
“It is important to go round the course with a local. I did that at Merion. You never know what you will pick up. It influenced the way I saw the holes last year.
“The word on the street, among the caddies, is that around four under will be the winning total, which is still a firm test. You have to be resilient. A year ago, I decided ‘if the course gives you bogey, take it.’
“I have to accept it could be the same at Pinehurst this week.”