Justin Rose was the big winner last week, taking home the BMW Championship, his first PGA Tour win of the year, and vaulting himself from 34th in the FedEx Cup standings to third heading into this week's Tour Championship. Rose took a few minutes out of his practice schedule on Tuesday to chat with Devil Ball about a multitude of things, ranging from his great play of late, to Lexi Thompson, to those adidas golf shoes everyone is talking about. Read on ...
Shane Bacon: First things first, obviously great playing last week, you had a strange year. You started out playing really well, getting hot through the Masters, but you tailed off until after the PGA Championship. What clicked with you when the playoffs started?
Justin Rose: This game is such a vague game, it comes and goes, and I think you need to stay patient with yourself out there. You need to keep believing and you're always one round away, and I think that's where I was last week. You're one round away from playing well again all the time, and that's the most important thing to realize with your stroke.
At the beginning of the year I was hitting the ball well, I was making a few putts, but still putting was holding me back a little bit, but when you start taking some chances and don't succeed you get frustrated and the more frustrated you get you find your game deteriorating and you end up struggling, but I think it's been a case of just letting my game come back to me.
SB: And this year, in 2011, it just feels every week is up in the air, there is no real favorite. Is this the craziest year you've been a part of since basically you started playing PGA Tour golf?
JR: Yeah, for sure, because you don't have the dominant figure like Tiger you had in the past that is winning five or six times a year, so therefore there is a lot more opportunity for young guys to win golf tournaments.
I think there's been some great new story lines, some good new players coming along, like guys like Webb Simpson for example, showing the world that the tour is very, very deep. I think we have a great batch of new, young players making themselves household names.
SB: And in the coming years, do you see anybody that could leap into a Tiger-like level or do you see parity as a big part of golf?
JR: I think parity is a bigger part of golf for sure. I think what Tiger achieved for so many years was so incredible is why he was, and is, the superstar he is. We expect him to make a comeback and I think that will be fun for the game to bring him back and in the mix with all these young guys coming through.
For someone to be that dominant, it doesn't really add up to the game the way the game is, it's just a really tough game that we all play, and the margins are so small. But there are a lot of guys that have the potential to go on to achieve great things, and probably the guy that has the most potential would be Rory McIlroy. You see a kid like that goes out and wins the U.S. Open by eight shots, then that's the kind of guy with the kind of talent level that can go on to dominant in the games.
SB: You're 31-years-old. Do you think it's easier to be successful later in your career and do you think guys like McIlroy and Rickie Fowler have too much pressure at a young age, or are they talented enough at a young age?
JR: Yeah, I think that's their challenge. The challenge that those guys face aren't necessarily golf challenging them, I think it's the whole lifestyle, the whole expectation, all the pressure that mounts up on them, and if they're good at dealing with that then they'll be superstars, and if they aren't good at dealing with that then they'll just be good players.
If you use Tiger again as an example, that's one of the most impressive things about him is that he's always had the game and talent but he had the ability to single-mindedly focus on what he needed to do to win so many tournaments.
For me being 31, I almost feel like I'm walking into the prime of my career at the same point, I feel like I've gained a lot from experience and if I can make it count. For me, my career now would be just fantastic to go on to win a bunch more tournaments and start contending and winning a few majors. For me to go on and to be one of the greatest of all time which is something Rory McIlroy has the opportunity to do is probably, you know, a big call from now but still, to have that ability to have a great career and do some fun stuff.
SB: You've talked about Rory a lot, and he's a big name. You had to deal with this in your career when you were younger, but you win a tournament and contend like you did at the British, and all of a sudden people are expecting stuff so fast. That can either be positive or negative, and the same thing happened with Sergio, but right now, it's happening on the LPGA Tour with Lexi Thompson, who wins at 16. What advice would you give to someone like her who wins so young and the expectations continue to multiply?
JR: Yeah, I would say, you need not to get wrapped up in results, you really need keep the game fun.
Twenty years is a long time to keep loving the game, but if you can somehow keep that light ignited for the love of the game, that is huge.
The other thing, keep your eye on your own improvement. Find ways to not link improvement to results, and I think in my career that's going to be judged upon over results.
As a player, you need to find ways to realize and know you're improving that aren't based purely on where you finish on a golf tournament. I think if you get into results too soon in a career it can get to become very frustrating.
SB: Lexi obviously plays on the LPGA, but is being successful at a young age on the LPGA Tour different than being successful as a men on the PGA or European Tour?
JR: I don't know really to be honest with you, that's a good question. Emotionally, I don't know if with boys and girls, I really don't know, it's a really good question. In tennis we've always seen girls do better than boys at a young age, and you kind of see that with golf, with Lexi at 16 and going back to Michelle Wie who was doing great stuff at 14, and you don't really see that with guys.
I think it might be from a maturity level point of view that girls can somehow get it a little bit quicker.
SB: And they're obviously more mature than us, anyway.
JR: Well they keep telling us that, anyway (chuckles).
SB: Do you think money plays a factor with people in the FedEx Cup, or do you think players would still be interested in playing in these things if the money was half or even a quarter of what it is now?
JR: The Tour Championship is the top-30 season ending event, and I think that holds a lot of prestige, regardless of the money. That's the mark of a good season. Being in the Tour Championship, you gain entry into a lot of great tournaments next year, like the majors and the WGC events. So a lot of guys are working hard to be here regardless of the money.
I wouldn't say it's necessarily all about the money although that's a huge, inviting thing, but I think the level of competition is what really excites me.
SB: And you yourself, you won last week, and you'll be a favorite this week, do you think that coming down the stretch on Sunday, do you think within a shot or two, do you think money would come into your mind or would it just be about golf?
JR: The money didn't come into my mind last week, it was all about golf, and my own personal desire to win. I think this week is different because you have the golf tournament to win plus there is a bonus on top of it, but the only way to cross the finish line is to keep it all about golf.
Nobody is going to play great golf thinking about $10 million, but it's the guys who keep their routine that's worked for them all year and the guys that stay focused on the right things and not get clouded up with money on their mind.
SB: Okay, we have to ask these type of questions -- if you had to put a percentage of Tiger breaking Jack Nicklaus' 18 major record, what would you put it out?
JR: Someone said to me that he needs the career of Seve Ballesteros to surpass Nicklaus, and when you put it like that, it's a big call, ya know? I would say, 30 percent.
SB: And the big talk last week besides you winning, was your shoes. The adidas adiSTREET shoes. Tell us a little bit about them. You just got them and put them right into play.
JR: Yeah, exactly, my mindset was that golf shoes have gone really downhill in stability for so long, and everything I do in the gym is all about barefoot and all about movement and foot and ankle mechanics feeding the rest of the chain. So I started thinking about the way I was walking and I wasn't feeling really fresh at the end of the rounds, and I was really tight. And with wearing these shoes, I have better feel and balance and my golf swing is better and I have just as much traction as I've had with any other shoes.
They're very soft on my body and I put them on in the morning at the hotel and went to the golf course, wore them all day, and they felt great.
SB: Is it just the fact that they feel like tennis shoes, yet they're still stable?
JR: Yeah, they have a soft rubber sole, and they've got a bit more traction and twist in them, and that helps my foot grip the ground.
They're light, they're comfortable and we walk so much, I feel like people design golf shoes on how you swing in them, but the fact is in a round of golf we're walking six miles, you better have something nice to walk in for six miles.