SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — On a day when some of the biggest names in golf took a beating and left the 18th green licking their wounds, Justin Rose, the winner of the 2013 U.S. Open, exhaled deeply and wore a look of relief as he opened the door of the scorer’s tent.
His opening round was not perfect, he could have made a few more putts, and his chipping was a little shaky at times. Plus hayfever was taking its toll on his eyes and nose. But after signing for a 71, Rose knew he had achieved his goal.
“I’m aware of the big picture of this tournament, and I think I knew what today was all about,” he said. “It was about hanging in there. If I’d a shot 72 or 73, it would be a good day’s work as well. Today is about eliminating a bad round, and I think it’s turned into a really positive start.”
The strategy for Rose was simple: avoid big numbers and string together pars. On a day when pars felt like birdies, he mostly kept the ball out of the knee-deep fescue and in the fairways and eschewed three-putting.
“The fact that I hit 13 out of 14 fairways made the course playable,” he said. “At least I had looks at birdies with some decent irons.”
Rose made his first birdie of the day on the par-5 fifth hole after hitting a 324-yard drive and a 240-yard approach shot before jarring a 33-foot putt. He also made birdie on the par-4 10th hole after his 75-yard approach shot from the bottom of the hole skidded to a stop just 8 feet from the hole.
For the day, Rose hit 12 of 18 green in regulation, got up-and-down from the sand three times out of four and never three-putted.
“There was no let-up out there today, and marginal golf shots were getting punished,” he said. “You have to execute. There’s no faking it around that golf course.”
After turning pro at 17 following a tie for fourth at the 1997 British Open, Rose missed the cut in the 21 events he played. But through countless hours on the range fine-tuning his swing, and recently transforming into a solid putter, he is now one of the prototypical U.S. Open players.
“I enjoy the battle. I enjoy the fight. I enjoy the grind, really,” Rose said before leaving Shinnecock and heading back to his rented house. “I do enjoy it, especially when you’re on the right side of the fight.”