RYDER CUP: Justin Rose interview

Golf News

Four years since his last Ryder Cup appearance, Justin Rose says he's hungrier than ever and looking forward to playing with Ian Poulter again...

After missing out in 2010, Justin Rose is back in European colours at Medinah.
Rose was one of the few Europeans to come away from Valhalla with his reputation enhanced after a fine three-point haul from four matches as a rookie. Now he’s raring to go after cruising into Jose Maria Olazabal’s side for the 39th matches.

What was your view of Sir Nick Faldo’s captaincy in 2008?
There are probably two answers to that. From my perspective being a young English guy who had looked up to Nick he was a great captain. He gave me my opportunity to play lots of games, he communicated with me throughout the week, asking how I was feeling and playing, which is exactly what you want.
There was a really comfortable relationship with the players.
From the result point of view and some of the pairings, in hindsight, maybe everything wasn’t perfect.
It is very difficult to keep everybody happy but for some of the older guys on the team they maybe felt like he could have done things differently.
But for guys like myself and Ian Poulter we felt that it was a great week.

Was the 1st tee as intimidating as you had imagined?
You hear about the first tee shot for years, struggling to get the ball on the tee peg and all that kind of stuff.
Ian and I played foursomes and the way the course set up I would hit the first tee shot. And that was great, I was relishing the challenge.
One thing Nick did with us was walk down to the 1st tee as a team to really soak it up and to prepare ourselves for that opening shot as it is so different to anything we usually experience.
And I got it in the fairway which, for a rookie and your first shot, you will always take.
That settled me down and we got off to a great start and the nerves settled.
We got three up against Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell but then lost on the last which was a really tough loss to take as a rookie.
Nick had already put out the pairings out for the afternoon thinking we were going to win so we really had to pick ourselves up and we bounced straight back and beat Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis.
Then we won again in the morning, getting some revenge over Stewart and Chad.
Beating Phil in the singles and winning three out of four made it a good Ryder Cup for me personally but, as we know, it’s all about winning as a team and that’s all that really counts. To sum it up it was one of the best weeks of my life despite being on a losing team.

What did you make of Paul Azinger’s pod system?
It’s not really your job as a player to concentrate on what they are doing.
You are so focused on your own job. For instance we’ll practise on the front nine and they’ll practise on the back nine and you are very separate as teams.
Obviously you have scouts there to see what’s going on but, for the most part, you are apart. Azinger turned out to be a really good captain, he really whipped up the crowd and they went for a different strategy in changing the atmosphere.
I think it was maybe the first Ryder Cup where they were the underdogs.
That can be a carefree role and I’m not sure who will be favourites this year.
The Americans are shaping up really nicely and it should be a really good test.

How tough was it to miss out on a wild card in 2010 after a good season in America?
You can’t blame Monty for his decision, he probably had one of the hardest decisions to make.
I had a couple of big wins on the PGA Tour and Paul Casey was in the top 10 in the world but we missed out.
I was disappointed that I didn’t get picked and I was surprised that Paul didn’t get picked.
I think it caused a bit of chaos the way it was done, I was teeing off within two shots of the lead of The Barclays – I was on the same score as the eventual winner Matt Kuchar – and literally 10 minutes before my tee time I was on the phone to Monty receiving some pretty devastating news.
I had assumed and been led to believe that I was looking good the previous month.
It was one of those situations where you try and put it behind you but the whole round I was replaying the whole conversation in my mind and it was difficult.
Obviously it wasn’t just me, Paul was unfortunately paired with Padraig Harrington and Padraig’s wife is giving him the thumbs up and Paul is looking over and thinking ‘any news for me?’ and it was all very awkward.
Luke got the news he was in and was seven under through 10 and then came back in six over.
So it was quite an eventful day.
So yes, it made me even more determined not to put myself in that position and you only have yourself to blame if you have to rely on a pick.
You can’t blame Monty for his decision, he probably had one of the hardest decisions to make. I was disappointed that I didn’t get picked. Did you watch the matches?
I was doing a day with my sponsors on the Monday and I was playing a par 3 about 20 times with every group and I was checking my phone in between every group.
It was a shame about the weather but America made it very exciting and GMac, who is a very good mate of mine, had an heroic finish.

I imagine you are looking forward to playing with your good friend Ian Poulter again?
That’s the guy who you want to play with because he does take it to another level when he plays in the Ryder Cup.
Poulter just finds that extra gear when he needs it in. He gets better.
I love his determination – his biggest asset.
He can also rub people up the wrong way which is a great thing if you are on his team.
He’s got the nickname The Postman because he always will deliver.
He’s great to have in the team room and his record speaks for itself.
Our caddies are good friends and go way back to working on the ladies’ tour and Ian and I have known each other 10 years when we used to room together on the Challenge Tour so there is a deep friendship there.
We don’t have to say sorry, we don’t feel uncomfortable and if one of us hits a bad shot we just try and get it up and down.

Can you compare your game to where it was in 2008?
I am a way better player than I was four years ago.
My skill set has improved a lot and I’m much more comfortable in the big situations.
I am a better closer of tournaments and that should really help on the big stage of a Ryder Cup.

How well do you know Medinah?
I played the PGA there in 2006 and all the par 3s are played over water so that should be exciting.
It is a fairly typical PGA venue.
I don’t think that is a disadvantage to us these days as all the boys play all the Majors and a lot play on the PGA Tour week in week out.
Their fans will obviously be patriotic so we know what to expect.

Which slot in the singles do you fancy come Sunday?
I am pretty much happy wherever the captain wants me.
Last time I was at number four and we were chasing a few points so it was important we got off to a good start.
It depends on the match how important your position is but you know your game will be relevant.
You need to go into Sunday being prepared for all eventualities and that critical moment.

Has Jose been in touch much?
I’ve had very little contact – I have just had my head down this year to try and make the team.
When he was the vice captain at Valhalla in 2008 we got a peek into what he might be like. He only made one speech but he really motivated the boys and there is some much respect for him.   

What was it like playing Phil Mickelson in the 2008 singles?
I have always enjoyed playing with Phil and he is always an exciting player to watch.
We all behave a bit differently at a Ryder Cup and there is a bit more eye to eye contact than at a PGA Tour event, you’re not walking down the fairway asking how the family are.
He is the perfect gentleman, that always strikes me about him and he was a gracious loser that day (at Valhalla when Rose beat him in the singles).
We played together in a PGA Tour event about a year later and my caddy and I were trying to pull his leg a bit asking how he got on in the singles.
And he truly couldn’t remember who he played so we were thinking that we really must have left a big impression on him.
That’s one of Phil’s biggest strengths that he can let go of things that happen on the course, even if they don’t go his way.

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