Justin Rose’s odd relationship with being No. 1

Golf

Justin Rose recaptured the No. 1 ranking in the world with his victory at the Turkish Airlines Open — and will just as quickly give it up, through no fault of his own, as the quirks of the system put Brooks Koepka in the lead spot next week.

Such is the fate of Rose, who has taken what would otherwise be considered an unusual path to the top if it were not for the amazing level of consistency the English golfer has exhibited over the past year.

Rose, 38, has spent most of the past eight years among the top 20 in the world, a majority of that time in the top 10, and for long stretches in the top 5.

For such a world-class player, he might also rank among its most underrated, a guy who is seemingly always there but often without the fanfare.

In just the past two months, he’s ascended to the No. 1 ranking twice, won the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup, and captured a European Tour final series event, defending a title for the first time as he did in Turkey.

And yet, some of it has been bittersweet.

“I’ve had some pressure-packed Sundays of late,” Rose said. “Dare I say, kind of coming away with consolation prizes in a way. World No. 1 after losing in a playoff. Finishing fourth (at the Tour Championship) but winning the FedEx Cup.

“The FedEx Cup was an interesting one because I knew exactly what I had to do and I was playing a tournament within a tournament. But not having that winning feeling in a tournament but still coming away with accolades.”

Sunday was another one of those odd deals for Rose, who trailed third-round leader Li Haotong by three strokes entering the final round, seemingly wrested control of the event over the back nine, then bogeyed the final two holes to find himself in a sudden-death playoff.

After missing a birdie putt from 15 feet on the first playoff hole, Li had a 12-footer to win – then three-putted to lose.

If the scene was a bit awkward, at least Rose was holding the trophy.

At the BMW Championship in late September, Rose bogeyed the final hole to drop into a playoff with Keegan Bradley, then lost the tournament on the first extra hole with a bogey — and yet went to No. 1 in the world.

At the Tour Championship, Rose was in contention for the tournament title, playing in the second-to-last group, but fell behind and found himself scrambling to win the overall FedEx Cup title — and its $10-million bonus. He birdied the 18th to secure the FedEx, then watched Tiger Woods win the tournament, his achievement greatly overshadowed.

Rose’s victory in Turkey was just his second in 2018, a misleading figure to be sure. When compared to Koepka — who won two major championships — it seemingly pales. But it also ignores the fact that Rose was top-20 in all four major championships this year, including two top-2s. He tied for second at The Open.

But consider his last eight worldwide starts beginning with the Dell Technologies Championship: 2, 2, T4, 8, 3, 1.

Going back to the 2017 WGC-HSBC Championships — just over a year ago — Rose has five victories, nine other top-five finishes and a total of 20 top-10s.

In the 27 tournaments he’s played over that period, Rose has just a single missed cut.

“As a body of work, no doubt about it, just the consistency of it, churning out,” Rose said. “I think I averaged 68.9 something on the PGA Tour this year and that’s way lower than I’ve averaged before. The fun thing is I still feel like there’s improvement to be had and that’s what I’m looking for. I’m really looking forward to the offseason to still work on a few things and still get better.

“That’s the exciting part, at 38, I still feel like there is improvement to be achieved.”

As it is, the offseason will be brief for Rose, who suggested he will not play Europe’s season-ending event in Dubai next week. He still has the Hero World Challenge — which is in the Bahamas, where he lives — as well as a title defense at a tournament in Indonesia.

Then look for him to carefully plan his schedule around the major championships.

“That’s what I’m interested in,” said Rose, whose lone major title came at the 2013 U.S. Open. “Trying to chase down as many as I can. You’ve seen players like Phil (Mickelson) and Padraig Harrington have hot spells toward the end of their careers where they have amasses two or three really quickly.

“If I was able to do that on top of what I’ve already achieved, it would make things really good, so very much focusing on the majors. Next year will be about majors and just overall recovery, maybe not playing too much and playing as fresh can.”

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