JUSTIN ROSE is so convinced he has found the secret to success at Birkdale, he should have a T-shirt printed with his mantra ‘Keep Calm And Win The Open’.
The Englishman is back where it all began for him as a top-class golfer, with that never-to-be-forgotten chip-in at the final hole to finish an incredible fourth here as a 17-year-old amateur back in 1998.
It is hard to believe that was 19 years ago.
And Rose, who will be 37 at the end of the month, now admits he was unnerved by those memories and finding himself the centre of attention when it was next hosted at the Lancashire links in 2008.
But he is back again for the 146th Championship as a US Open winner, an Olympic gold medallist, and a battle-hardened campaigner who insists he will not be distracted this time.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned, 2008 was my walk down memory lane.
“I’ve come here this time thinking, ‘Let’s just play golf — and make a proper run at capturing that Claret Jug’.
“It’s not easy for me to accept that my fourth place here in 1998 is still my best finish in The Open.
“That is simply not good enough. When I sit on a rocking chair at the end of my career I don’t want to think back to the kid who went close against all the odds.
“I want to have a replica of the Claret Jug on a little table next to me.
“When I analyse the reasons for not doing better, a lot of it comes down to getting caught up in the hype and the excitement of playing in front of our home crowds — and almost wanting it too much.
The difference in terms of winning the biggest events is all upstairs, when I’ve felt incredibly calm
“I’m back with a fresh mind this time and I’m determined to stay as calm and composed as possible, regardless of what the curse or the weather throws at me.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still be a cauldron of emotions. And I do think that it’s good to see passion.
“It’s good to see fire, but it’s good to see it in the young players rather than the guys who have been there before.
“Speaking now as someone who has been through it and being slightly older, I think to be your best and to be the greatest player you can be, you have to master the mental side.
“Having all of the talent in the world is great and these young guys have it.
“But the difference in terms of winning the biggest events is all upstairs. When I’ve had my great weeks — US Open, the Olympics, even finishing runner-up in this year’s Masters — they were all weeks when I felt incredibly calm.
“When I have been challenged during those weeks I’ve kind of dealt with those pivotal moments very well.
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“And it won’t be as if I plan to keep absolutely everything bottled up.
“I think getting angry kind of wakes you up occasionally, especially if you’re feeling a bit flat and nothing seems to be happening for you.
“So if you make a mistake and you get angry, it can wake you up and drag you back out of that passive mindset. You need a high level of intensity, especially in Majors, but that is the only time getting angry helps.
“When you are playing the biggest championships and you are in contention, the drive and the energy are going to be there anyway, for sure.
“And at those times, it is always about getting the right balance, finding the inner calm to channel the passion.”
Rose is clearly frustrated at not adding to his solitary Major victory, at the 2013 US Open at Merion — although he could hardly have gone any closer than he did at Augusta in April.
He just lost out to Sergio Garcia in a memorable head-to-head that went to a play-off, before the Spaniard produced the moment of magic to snatch the Green Jacket.
The English ace, who has slipped down the world rankings to No 12, attracted praise from all quarters for his generosity in defeat. But he seems almost embarrassed by that reaction.
Rose added: “I just took the attitude that I didn’t do much wrong at Augusta.
“Sergio played great golf to win, so I felt it was right and proper to congratulate him and that I could walk away with my held high.
“That’s how I choose to view it. And I have a good significant time left in my career to try to get a Green Jacket.
“It’s the one venue we go back to consistently and it’s a course I enjoy playing, so hopefully it will give me another chance.
“Henrik Stenson also reminded me that when I pipped him to the gold medal at the Olympics, I had a few things go my way.
“At the 12th hole, I hit it on the green out of a bush. On the 13th hole, I hooked my tee shot and it ran through a few more bushes on to another fairway.
“Sergio had those little moments on the back nine at Augusta. I had them in Rio.
“That’s golf. We all have good breaks and bad breaks. Sometimes it’s our week and sometimes it isn’t. I’ll have other weeks when it goes my way — and hopefully this will be one of them.”
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