Justin Rose, from 214 yards out on the par-5 15th at Sedgefield Country Club on Friday, hit a 5-iron over the water fronting the green, and his ball dropped to about 12 feet. “Wow, best I’ve seen so far today here at 15,” the announcer on the PGA Tour Live broadcast said. It was a shot Rose hadn’t seen recently, either.
“That was a really nice 5-iron I hit in there, which is a shot that I’ve been working on this week to kind of get the full numbers out of my iron play,” he said. “Last week in Memphis, I was struggling to hit my numbers and that’s a shot I couldn’t have hit last week, so shows I’m making some progress.”
While it’s important to know how Rose hit the shot, it’s maybe more meaningful to know when he hit it.
The former world No. 1 hasn’t won since early 2019. This week, at the Wyndham Championship, he’s fighting to keep his season alive; he’s 138th in the FedEx Cup standings, and only the top 125 will move on to next week’s Northern Trust, the first leg of the three-week postseason. And yet, with all of that at the front of mind, Rose appeared to have put it in the rearview, worked on a shot on the range and then went out and executed.
How’d he do it? A reporter even more bluntly asked: “As somebody who, like, chokes when he’s playing corn hole, how do you do that as a professional athlete?” In a thoughtful answer after his round, complete with a later reference to tennis, it all really boils down to just five words:
You need to be free.
“You just need to have a little bit of a bigger picture and a bit of perspective going on,” Rose said. “So for me, for example, if I want to get back to playing some of the best golf that I’ve played and to compete with the best players in the world again and sort of compete in major championships, you need to be free.
“You need to kind of, no matter what the scenario is and what the pressure is, you need to be able to swing freely and commit. So yeah, whatever the scenarios are this week, I need to be able to swing freely and commit through coming up the 18th hole with a chance to finish top 10 or a chance to win or whatever it might be. It’s a great opportunity this week just to continue to kind of practice that kind of hopefully steppingstone back towards playing great.”
The thought, he said, is something he picked up not from golf, but tennis’ big three: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
“I look at a lot of the tennis players, actually,” Rose said. “I look at Nadal, Djokovic and Federer, when they’re 15-30 down, they swing for the lines. They don’t start chipping it back into the middle of the court; they commit to their shots.
“Sometimes I find it easier to learn from other sports than I do in my own arena, probably just stubbornness of looking at other players and wanting to learn from them, but definitely when I see tennis players, yeah, they commit 100 percent.”
A reporter then asked: Is Rose “more of a Federer probably than a Nadal?”
“Yeah, to be honest, you’re spoilt for choice in tennis, but yeah, the grace and elegance with which Roger’s gone about his business and how he plays tennis, he’s a pretty good role model,” he said.