LONDON: England’s Justin Rose clinched the biggest win of his career in Sunday’s WGC-Cadillac Championship then promptly set his sights on landing his first major.
Rose shot a two-under-par 70 to beat American Bubba Watson by a stroke and hold off a late surge from world No. 1 Rory McIlroy to claim his first victory in the elite WGC series.
It was Rose’s fourth win on the PGA Tour, following victories in the Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National in 2010 and last year’s BMW Championship, and crowned an impressive start to the year for the 31-year-old.
It also suggested that the South-African born Orlando resident, who also has five wins on the European Tour, could be a real contender at the Masters next month.
“If you look at the tournaments I’ve won and now a World Golf Championship, the progression is really, really nice. The only thing that really is the next level up is a major,” Rose said.
“But that’s not to say that I’m at that stage in my career where I am only focusing on the majors. I think there is a lot more for me to do in the game to get to that point. But no doubt, I feel my game is getting ready for that.”
Rose’s best finish in a major was tied for fourth in the 1998 British Open while he finished fifth at the Masters in 2007 and fifth at the 2003 U.S. Open.
He credits his current form to a combination of natural maturing and the help of his assistants, his caddy Mark Fulcher, swing coach Sean Foley and sports psychologist Gio Valiante.
“I’m 31 now and maybe have learned the hard way a little bit. I’ve certainly had my chances in the past as well,” he said.
“I think it’s probably a confidence thing. When I do get into contention now, I believe I can go ahead and close it out.
“Also I have a great team around me. Its been an evolution and a team of people who have all worked really hard to help me.”
One of the things that Rose has clearly learned is how to finish off a tournament, keeping his cool in the final round.
With Watson enjoying home support in Florida, playing in the group behind him, and McIlroy on the charge, Rose was under increasing pressure but managed to stay composed when it mattered most.
“I felt very comfortable. I was even kind of checking myself, even on the 18th tee, there was very little nerves. I was like, this is not normal based upon the past. I guess it is a good sign,” he said.
“There are a lot of tricks and stuff going in. It’s very easy to say I’m going to be relaxed but you’ve got to know your tendencies out there.
“I definitely work on my pace and my rhythm from my swing to the way I walk and everything.”