Justin Rose’s very ordinary Open record looked all set to continue. Ever since 1998 the World No. 3 has always been talked about alongside the oldest major but, since that tie for 4th at Birkdale as a 17-year-old this has comfortably been his worst major.
And it all looked set to carry on, a sixth missed cut in 17 starts. On Friday night Rose needed to find a birdie – he had only had two thus far – over Carnoustie’s grisly final holes.
Chances went begging at 16 and 17, incredible in itself, before he knocked in a 14-footer at the last.
His caddie Mark Fulcher chest pumped Michael Greller, Rose apologised to his right-hand man for some of his behaviour and it was start again time.
And now, after a Saturday 64, he’s back in it. The gutsiest of threes the previous day was followed by an opening three, he birdied both of the par 5s which had earlier been played in two over, and he finished with another three threes – even Paul Lawrie couldn’t manage that in 1999. He has now birdied 18 all three days.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 21, 2018
“I felt like it was an opportunity to score well out there. The greens were somewhat receptive, obviously, and the pins weren’t as tough as maybe the first couple of days. I felt like it was a typical set-up for a moving day. So it was nice to make that move,” the 37-year-old said.
“Momentum-wise, birdieing the very first hole, picking up where I left off last night, got me well into the round early. And really just I kept pushing myself to keep going, keep going. I was really pushing myself to see if I could make a couple more, and I left it late.”
Rory McIlroy has spoken of wanting to play with more freedom and Rose, who seemed irritated and surprisingly tetchy on day one, was also enjoying some welcome freedom in his play.
“I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up, and I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning. So that might have been part of the shift in mindset. Obviously, I had nothing to lose from that point of view.
“The first couple days were hard work and frustrating. We worked on a lot this week, and I think sometimes you’ve got to let the dust settle a little bit. I just kind of fell back into some sort of simple, old, reliable swing feels.”