Justin Rose has criticised golf’s new schedule for leaving insufficient time between the four major championships and appearing to prioritise the FedEx Cup over those historic tournaments that will define a player’s career.
An overhauled schedule has meant that the four biggest events of the year, the US Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open and the Open, which starts on Thursday at Royal Portrush, are being played monthly between April and July.
It has led to Rose opting not to play a single tournament since the US Open, which ended on June 16, in his attempt to be fully reinvigorated this week. The players will then face a wait of almost nine months until the next major at Augusta. “It's too condensed,” said Rose. “I also think it's pretty much driven by the FedEx Cup, wanting to finish on a certain date, everything else having to fit in where it can.
“For me a major championship should be the things that are protected the most. That's how all of our careers ultimately are going to be measured. Thirty or forty years ago there wasn't a FedEx Cup so if you're trying to compare one career to another career, Jack [Nicklaus] versus Tiger [Woods], it's the majors that are the benchmarks. For them to be tweaked so much I think is quite interesting at this point.”
Rose’s comments are especially striking given that he was the last winner of the $10m FedEx Cup bonus for what is a series of PGA Tour events which will finish this year in August rather than September. The specific difficulty, said Rose, is trying to come down from the added intensity of a major and then again discovering optimum form and focus in the space literally of a few weeks. Rose led after the first round of the recent US Open before tying for third, and subsequently decided that it would be counterproductive to play any of the four PGA events in between. Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele have mirrored Rose in not playing a tournament since Pebble Beach last month.
The last player to win the Open after missing every event since the US Open was Johnny Miller in 1976 and Rose accepts that it will be a case of trial and error as he adjusts. “As a professional in terms of trying to peak for something, the process that's involved in trying to do that can be detailed and it can be longer than a month,” he said. “I think we're all trying to adapt. It's about trying to peak, valley, and peak again in such a short period of time. This is unchartered territory for me to take time off between majors.”
One other notable element of his preparations has been arriving early in Portrush and spending time last week getting to know the town and area. “The people are very proud of their little piece of the world up here and it is very special,” he said. “It feels a little bit different up here, for sure, than the routine venues that we're used to in the (Open) rotation. I had a few Guinnesses the other night. I like coming up to these places before the tournament starts. They do feel like mini boys' trips. You have Portrush to yourself in Open Championship condition, and you get to go to the pub for one or two. Who wouldn't want to do that? Once championship week rolls around, you're in bed early.”
Relaxation, then, will be provided by having his family in attendance, and especially the demands of his son 10-year-old Leo following England’s victory in the Cricket World Cup. “My little boy has suddenly gone cricket mad - he’s in the garden until the sun goes down saying, ‘Dad, can you bowl a few at me?’ If you're in contention, it's a great distraction to take your mind off the golf and just enjoy having your family around.”
Rose practiced for nine holes yesterday afternoon - describing his game as “ticking along in the right direction” - but was especially keen to fathom the likely wind direction.” He said that his second place at Carnoustie last year helped him fall “back in love” with the Open and was even talking yesterday about how victory could be a springboard for a career grand slam of golf majors. “The next one is really important for me, because it makes the next two feel possible - you're kind of at the tipping point,” he said.
Currently ranked fourth in the world, Rose has finished second at three majors and won an Olympic gold since winning the 2013 US Open, and intends to make defending that Olympic title a “huge priority” next year. “I think golf in Tokyo is going to be well supported by all of the top players,” he said.