Justin Rose. Lionel Bonaventure
Having just signed for a closing 72 and a five-under-par total of 283 for the week, Justin Rose was well aware he was not going to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. But, no matter, at the end of a week in which he “hasn’t wasted any putts, for sure”, the former US Open champion already had bigger things on his mind. Specifically, what will be his sixth appearance in European colours when he lines up at Marco Simone later this month for the 44th Ryder Cup.
Rose is likely to play a vital role on captain Luke Donald’s team. Two actually. By seven years the oldest member of the 12-strong squad, the South African-born Englishman is second only to Rory McIlroy when it comes to appearances in the biennial contest against the United States (six starts to McIlroy’s seven). So Rose has much to offer off the course as well as on.
“I’ve thought about my role for sure,” the 43-year-old said. “I do come in with a lot of experience. But it’s not a role I want to push on any of the younger lads. It needs to be natural and organic. I don’t want to install my views on the others if it is not how they see things. They need to come to me. But if they do, I’m more than happy to dive into that role. Having said that, the youngsters today do seem to be a little bit more self-assured than generations past. So it is best to let them free-wheel. Any pitfalls they have to experience for themselves. My role is really to get comfortable with them and be there for them if required.”
There won’t be any problem if they don’t. Rose understands.
“I’ve never been good at asking questions actually,” he said. “I sometimes think I should have been asking more. I’m pretty good at learning the hard way. But sometimes there isn’t time to learn that way.”
By way of example, Rose already feels like he has helped rookie Nicolai Hojgaard — with whom he played the last two rounds at Wentworth — get a better feel for four-ball tactics.
“I was just chatting to Nicolai on the course,” Rose said. “It was nothing specific, just overall strategy in and around four-balls. I hope he is absorbing things without really realising it. I could tell he really got what I was saying. I pointed out the way we played the first hole yesterday. When I hit the fairway, he might have been tempted to whip out the driver if he was my partner. But he did what I did. We both hit the green and had birdie putts, which we both made. That’s great strategy. Two putts is better than one.”
As for overall team bonding, Rose is more than happy to see that such an important aspect of the build-up is way ahead of previous schedules.
“The bonding started last Monday in Rome, which has made this week a more gentle carry-over,” he said. “But the benefits are there. I was on the adjacent eighth tee today when Sepp Straka drove off the 11th. He looked over and gave me a thumbs-up. That wouldn’t have happened had we not gone to Rome. So there is momentum already. I love the way the team is shaping up. It’s very balanced. We have a nod to the past. We have the top players in the game. And we have some new blood.”
All of which is good news for Rose, who found himself in the dreaded “13th man” slot two years ago. So he knows exactly how the unfortunate Adrian Meronk is feeling this time round. But amid the disappointment, Rose also has realism.
“Some players say the Ryder Cup is the greatest week of your life, win or lose,” he says with a smile. “That’s rubbish. They are actually awful if you lose. I don’t enjoy losing. So last time would have been a tough week. My game wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be. I’d have gone there struggling to earn points. But yes, I was disappointed.
“I told Adrian this week to use it positively,” Rose continued. “Let the burn ignite a fire you can work with and fan the flames for the next two years. But with six picks it was hard to play your way on automatically. When there are, say, two wildcards you stick out a bit. Half of this team has been picked so no one should be feeling the same weight of expectation. That’s a good thing.”
Among many apparently. Only 12 days to go.