Justin Rose missed out by the narrowest of margins last year, but has all the attributes to go one step further in 2018.
Why Justin Rose Will Win The Masters
There are no certainties in this life, that we all know, but some things are tacitly more likely than others – England losing on penalties, train delays when you absolutely have to get somewhere on time and Augusta National’s azaleas blooming in April, to name but a few. At this point, Justin Rose winning The Masters has to be considered more likely than not.
That seems like a brash proclamation given the strength of the field each year, but Rose’s fabulous Masters form has coincided with a period in which the talent pool has deepened considerably. The 37-year-old made his Masters debut in 2003 and has competed 11 times subsequently. He’s never missed the cut and, impressively, he hasn’t finished outside the top 25 since 2008.
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Since 2012, Rose has notched four top-ten finishes, including three in the last three years. In 2015, when Jordan Spieth won his first Major, the Englishman compiled a 72-hole total of 14-under-par. While he finished four behind Spieth – who tied Tiger Woods’ Masters scoring record – his score would have been enough to either win, or force a play-off in, 15 of the previous 17 Masters.
I was fortunate enough to attend The Masters last year, and I followed Rose for his front nine on the first day. He turned in two-under-par 34 and I’m not exaggerating when I say he missed five birdie putts from within ten feet, including a two-footer on the opening green. It would have been so easy to let frustration take hold after missing a six-footer for birdie on the 7th green and somehow walking off level par, but he bounced back with consecutive birdies to turn in 34 – testament to his mental strength, patience and pragmatism. He carried himself all week with a palpable confidence and clearly feels at home in this sublime Georgian locale.
In the end, it was only an inspired Sergio Garcia who prevented him from landing his second Major. He simply couldn’t have done anything more to repel a spell of pure genius from Garcia that had most discussing the intervention of fate. When he returns this year, he’ll take great heart from the fact he played so well and looked so assured in Sunday’s final group. That, in itself, is hardly a surprise – he is, of course, a past US Open Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist.
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But it’s not just the intangibles that suggest a Rose Masters victory is likely at some stage; it’s also his physical attributes. In my mind, Augusta National is a second shot golf course. The severe green complexes and tiered, undulating putting surfaces mean it’s so important to find the right section of each green. Rose is renowned as one of the finest iron players in the game, and the stats back this up. At Augusta, players face a number of approaches from 125 to 175 yards. Last year on the PGA Tour, Rose ranked 16th in approaches from 125-150 yards and 4th in approaches from 150-175 yards.
Rose also puts himself in prime position to attack the flag time and time again. Last season on the PGA Tour, he ranked 14th in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and 9th in Strokes-Gained: Tee-To-Green. In addition, he was 8th in birdie average, which is significant when it comes to Augusta. It’s not a US Open-style layout where pars are gold – you need to make birdies, and lots of them, to win The Masters. On the European Tour in 2017, he was 8th in Scoring Average and 10th in Greens in Regulation. While he’s not the best putter in the world, he does tend to roll it better on faster greens. Last year, he was 3rd in the Putts Per GIR category at Augusta – fairly deadly when you hit as many greens as Rose does.
Simply put, he’s a machine, and on the rare occasions he does find himself out of position, he has the short-game skills to save himself and keep a big number off his scorecard. In 2015 and 2017, he negotiated 72 holes at Augusta without making a double-bogey or worse. He finished second on both occasions. Since 2008, only one winner has recorded a double-bogey throughout the course of the week – Spieth on the 17th hole during round three in 2015.
I’m not saying that Rose is destined to win this year, but I’d be surprised if he ended his career without a Green Jacket in his wardrobe. We’ve seen on countless occasions over the years how Augusta’s beauty and serenity can inspire players time and time again, and it’s undoubtedly a place where success breeds success – see Palmer, Nicklaus, Faldo, Woods, Mickelson, Watson and others. What’s more, Rose’s name on the leaderboard carries a certain gravitas given how well he’s performed in recent times. The next European to win The Masters? I’ll certainly be putting money on it.
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