COMMENTARY | The world of golf is teeming with can't-miss-kids who did. Names like Ty Tryon, Danny Lee, Jamie Lovemark, Eddie Pearce and even Michelle Wie spring to mind, so should it be hard to believe that two of the early 21st century's can't-miss-kids who did are major champions already in 2013?
In a word, no.
Justin Rose is simply the latest example of a golfing prodigy who had expectation, money and fame heaped upon him before he was able to develop any sort of professional-style game.
Splashing on the golfing radar as a bright-eyed 17-year-old at the 1998 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale where he finished in a tie for fourth, Rose was ripe for the heaping. Royal and Ancient secretary Michael Bonallack did the honors shortly thereafter pegging Rose as Europe's answer to Tiger Woods.
Of course, he wasn't and he proved as much by missing his first 21 cuts as a professional.
"At times it feels 25 years since Birkdale and other times it feels like it was just yesterday," Rose said in his champion's press conference after capturing the US Open at Merion Golf Club. "There's a lot of water under the bridge. My learning curve has been steep from that point.
"(I) announced myself on the golfing scene probably before I was ready to handle it and golf can be a cruel game. I have had the ups and downs, but I think that ultimately it's made me stronger and able to handle the situations like today, for example."
Rose credited his breakthrough in part to his fellow competitor and contemporary Adam Scott. In sending Scott a congratulatory text following the Aussie's first major victory at Augusta National in April, Rose said he and the Masters champ began a conversation in which Scott told Rose "this is your time, this is our time, to win these tournaments."
Rose, 32 and only 14 days Scott's junior, has traveled a similar road of skepticism to his first major victory. The talent between the pair had never been questioned. Their swings and ball-striking abilities had been the envy of a generation of golfers, yet their experience and maturity hadn't developed as quickly as their skill. The flashes of brilliance only served as cautionary tales of what could be if they could bring all the necessary pieces together.
It is those experiences, those heartbreaks and close calls that have made them into major champions.
The word prodigy is defined as a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional abilities. However, in order for a prodigy to grow into a star on the most pressure-packed stages, those abilities must be buttressed by similarly exceptional mental fortitude, one that 999 times out of a 1,000 are formed through failure.
15 years have passed since Royal Birkdale. 12 years have passed since he became a staple on the European Tour after failing to retain his card a handful of times.
His first professional victory came five years after that fateful chip-in on the 72nd hole at the Open Championship. It was eight more years still until Rose broke through on the PGA Tour, winning Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in 2010.
And almost three years to the day after his first PGA Tour victory, Rose raised his first major championship trophy.
The career grind had molded Rose from a prodigy, into a solid pro and finally into a major champion.
"The scar tissue on the golf course (that came from my early struggles) like anything, takes time to heal," Rose said of the road to becoming a major champion. "It was a pretty traumatic start to my pro career. I've never really talked about it because you don't want to admit to that being the case, but I think when you've got past something you can talk openly about it. And in the moment like this, can you talk about how I feel like I've come full circle confidence‑wise and game development‑wise."
Chris Chaney is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based sportswriter. He has written for multiple outlets including WrongFairway.com, Hoopville.com, The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer and The Clermont (OH) Sun.
Follow him on Twitter @Wrong_Fairway.
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