Nice guys finish first: How Rose blossomed into the world's best

The Scoop

He might not have won the BMW Championship but there was quite the silver lining for Justin Rose. Mark Townsend looks at his journey to becoming the World No. 1

When the question repeatedly pops up as to who the best player in the world is we get a variety of answers.

Dustin Johnson, with his might and power, newish-found wedge game and ability to shrug off setbacks immediately springs to mind.

Justin Thomas, with his eight wins in the past two seasons, has been predicted to dominate the game for the coming years. The same is now said of Brooks Koepka who has won half of his last six majors.

Jordan Spieth? Maybe he’ll be remembered as the best putter ever to play the game with the smartest brain.

Then there’s Rory who, we all like to keep repeating, is the best ‘on his day’. Before too long we’ll probably be able to add Tiger Woods back into the mix.

But top of the pile is now Justin Rose, at the ripe-ish age of 38 who, thanks to a runner-up finish at the BMW Championship, moves from fourth to leapfrog the American trio of Thomas, Koepka and Johnson.

How do we like to pigeonhole the Englishman, who becomes just the 22nd player to sit as the World No. 1? Interestingly he is the third oldest to be the best in the business after Vijay Singh and Tom Lehman.

Resilient springs to mind. Those 21 straight missed cuts to begin his professional career, two early successful visits to Q School, a US Open victory where the winning score was +1, that putt on 17 to help him win the last two holes against Phil Mickelson at Medinah, and the way he birdied the 72nd hole when a gold medal was up for grabs in Rio.

The way people talked about the Olympics, and golf’s uncertain future in it, Rose was the ideal champion to show the game off.

Justin Rose

He doesn’t go more than a day without shaving, he always says the right thing, is passionate about his own sport, humble about the other sports, and won’t even celebrate properly before extending a polite handshake and pat of the back. While commentators will often have to apologise for some colourful language from a collection of his peers, Rose will keep his frustrations under wraps.

Whatever he’s doing he ‘gets it’. He is seamless.

Rose might have won just once so far this year but he is consistently brilliant and his ability to accumulate world ranking points in the past 12 months has been phenomenal. Twelve months ago he was 13th in the world. His progress since, including the back-to-back wins in China and Turkey, has been relentless.

For all the chat about how he nearly won our Open Championship as a 17-year-old amateur his record in this major is very ordinary. At Carnoustie I watched him try to pick up a shot over the course’s punishing closing holes. He gave himself chances on 16 and 17 before knocking in a 14-footer at the last to squeeze into the weekend. His long-time caddie Mark Fulcher chest-pumped Michael Greller and two days later, after a fourth straight birdie at the 18th, he came up just two shots shy of a play-off.

But a period that maybe won’t be talked about is the one where he won four times around the world knowing his dad, Ken, wasn’t going to recover from cancer. Rose was just 21.

Rose often refers to his victory at the British Masters at Woburn in 2002, a tournament he will be hosting at Walton Heath later this year, as one of the proudest of his career as his dad was there to witness it.

Six weeks later he was paired with Tiger Woods at The Open with Woods looking to capture his third major of the year.

“My dad said: ‘We’ve faced much more difficult things than this.’ I went out and shot 68. I’ll always remember that. He passed away two months later.”

He might not have the sexy game, charisma or putting stroke of some of his peers, but he’s squeezed every last drop out of what was already a huge amount of potential as a youngster.

A wonderful achievement. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

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