GULLANE, Scotland – A month after winning the U.S. Open, Justin Rose still hasn’t settled on an engraver to etch his name into the trophy he brought home from the Merion Golf Club.
But the Englishman already has someone in mind: Garry Harvey, the silversmith who will engrave the name of the British Open winner on the claret jug within moments of the final putt dropping Sunday at Muirfield.
“I’m hoping I’ll get a two-for-one deal this year,” Rose chuckled Wednesday. “With the U.S. Open, you get it done yourself. So I’m hoping I’ll get a discount for bulk.”
It would be hard to come up with a better finish to what’s already been an eventful few weeks for Rose. Since capturing his first major, he’s dined with Prime Minister David Cameron, signed hundreds of autographs and watched from the Royal Box as countryman Andy Murray captured the Wimbledon men’s singles final.
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And just like Murray, who won the U.S. Open last fall, Rose would love to possess both trophies at the same time, a feat only six golfers — all among the game’s greats — have accomplished in the century-plus history of major championship golf. The roster of that exclusive club speaks to just how tough a task it is: Bobby Jones (twice, 1926 and 1930); Gene Sarazen (1932); Ben Hogan (1953); Lee Trevino (1971); Tom Watson (1982); and Tiger Woods (2000).
“The challenge for me is going to be staying in this tournament, not being dragged back to Merion every five minutes,” Rose said.
“If I’m left alone, just me and my caddie, it’s pretty easy to focus on what I need to focus on. It’s when you have the outside distractions that prevents you from doing that. But when you’re playing a tournament, you’re in a controlled environment and it’s business as usual.”
Rose acknowledged there were only so many similarities from a visual standpoint between the rain-soaked Merion course, located in suburban Philadelphia, and surprisingly dry Murfield, a seaside links course on Scotland’s eastern coastline.
“They’re polar opposite in the sense of how the ball is reacting on the ground, but they’re in the sense of strategy. At Merion, I hit a lot of irons off the tee. I played defensively, sort of conservatively, and I felt that was the best way to approach it. … I was lucky that my game plan turned out to be exactly the right one, with 1-over par winning. That’s my challenge this week, to see the golf course the right way and set a game plan that not only keeps me out of trouble,” he added, “but is aggressive enough to make the most of the opportunities when they come around.
“So I think for me,” Rose summed up, “it’s going to be quite a cautious game plan off the tee.”
He grew up playing links courses, and nearly set the golf world on its ear by contending at the 1998 British Open as a 17-year-old amateur before slipping back to fourth place.
But Rose’s win at the U.S. Open was the first by an Englishman at the tournament since Tony Jacklin in 1970, and it became such a symbol of national pride that it was one of the first things Cameron mentioned when he sat down with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G-8 Summit recently.
“I see a British golfer has just won the United States Open,” Cameron needled his golf-loving fellow leader.
Men-only policy to get review
The leader of the R&A, which conducts the British Open, said the matter of men-only clubs would be reviewed but added that the exclusionary policy was in no way comparable to racial or religious discrimination. Peter Dawson, the chief executive, said Wednesday during a news conference on the eve of the 142nd British Open, “When things are a bit quieter, after the championship, I’m quite sure we’ll be taking a look at everything to see what kind of sense we can make of it for the future.”
The site of this year’s championship, Muirfield, has a men-only membership. It is one of three courses in the British Open rotation with such a policy. Augusta National, the club that hosts the Masters, added its first two female members before this year’s tournament.
Dawson disputed that male-only clubs stifle the sport.
“On the Saturday morning when the guy gets up or the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon, that’s not on any kind of par with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism or any of these things. It’s just what people kind of do.”