As that fabled 17-year-old amateur who finished fourth at The Open, it is fair to say that Justin Rose knows a bit about youth golf and turning prodigy into glory and that is why he is the perfect champion to headline the Telegraph Junior Golf Championship.
It is also why the sport and its wannabes should listen when he warns about the current obsession with power.
Rose goes into next week’s Masters acutely aware that there is a burgeoning and bludgeoning revolution taking place as the young guns storm the elite. Bryson DeChambeau is at its vanguard and the reigning US Open will once again arrive in Georgia attempting to reduce Amen Corner to a few “Hail Marys!”.
The bombs of DeChambeau and the likes of Matthew Wolff and Cameron Champ will no doubt explode into the headlines and catch the attention of juniors with their sights set on an eye-stretching future. But Rose would like to ask them a few questions. “Is it the short term or the long term that they are thinking of when it comes to their time as a professional?” he says. “Because with some of these swings nowadays, I’m not sure it can be both.”
Those lucky ones who qualify for the finals of the Justin Rose Telegraph Junior Golf Championship at Walton Heath in October will get to meet the former world No 1 in person and benefit from his major-winning experience. “I will certainly advise caution if they are dead set on emulating what they see on TV, with these 200mph ball speeds and 400-yard drives” he says. “Because we are dealing with a lot of unknowns and we don’t know yet the toll this will take on the body. The more force we generate, the more force the body has to absorb. The torque is incredible.
“If you look at my generation — say me, Adam Scott and Sergio [Garcia] — we are probably the first wave that’s grown up with the fitness and physio side and I kind of feel we’re in the sweet spot, the way we approached the game in the last 20 years, focusing on our mobility and flexibility and looking at the big picture. And I think our best golf could well be in front of us, as weird as that is to say with us all in our 40s.
“Whereas I feel like that the generation coming up behind us is pushing the limit much harder than than we did from a physical point of view and even though science is improving and we are understanding more and more about the body, eventually those aggressive motions have to take their impact.
“If it carries on like this and if everyone coming out here is looking for the power game, then maybe careers will get shorter and there won’t be players in their 40s still able to compete at the top of the sport.
“Apart from the physical issues that might be suffered, I think that would be a huge shame. Watching Westy [Lee Westwood] and Bryson going at it at Bay Hill [last month] was great because you had a 48-year-old taking on a 27-year-old. That sort of battle between the generations is unique to golf.
“Westy and what he has done in the last year and a half is a huge inspiration. It’s a great part of what I love about golf. Lee is playing with wisdom and experience and gratitude. They are powerful words, but there is something so noble about it. That longevity and endless hunger should be celebrated and it is. That is my concern with this drive for length — the professional male game could lose all that.”
Rose points to USPGA champion Collin Morikawa as an ideal role model for the young pro to follow. “He has an iron game to die for,” Rose says. “I admire all of the young players, but Collin is like Tommy [Fleetwood] in that he is so good to watch. Both of them are so free and easy and will be around a long time.”
The irony is that Rose himself is just emerging from an injury, but then when you have been a professional for 23 of the 41 years you have been on the planet, the niggles are unavoidable. Just when his form had turned around with a runner-up finish at Saudi Arabia after a poor 2020 — in which he fell from eighth in the world to 35th — so a back spasm forced him to withdraw midway through the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I could have played The Players [the next week] at a stretch, no pun intended, and the WGC Match Play last week, but I thought to myself ‘what do I want from my career nowadays?’ ” Rose says. “No disrespect to any other competition, but what drives me now is majors, Ryder Cups, the Olympics. So I thought I would recover fully and concentrate purely on the Masters. I’m single-mindedly going after this one and to have that approach is an interesting experiment in a sense. I’ve definitely never had five weeks off before a major before. Who knows, it might work.”
Rose will sign in at Augusta on Saturday, although he has played the course several times in the past three weeks. “I have done so in my head, in real time, sat in my trophy room for inspiration, visualising each shot and what it will be like,” he says. “The sights, sounds and smells. I play maybe four holes at a time and yes, I do invariably play them well. However, this is a maddening game and there is a great story of [South African pro] Jeff Hawkes who had to give up visualising rounds when he kept shooting 74 in them. I do have good memories of Augusta, though.”
Rose has led or held a share of the lead after each of the four rounds, with his play-off defeat against Garcia in 2017 still fresh in the memory. “I know the place, know what it takes and can get in round there even when not at my best,” he says. “Last year, I was playing absolutely rubbish, but when I birdied the second on the Saturday I was one shot off the lead. That gives me confidence that if my second major is to come anywhere it could well be there.”
Rose is back with swing coach Sean Foley and putting last year firmly in his rear-view mirror. “It wasn’t good on the course, but off it, there were positives, including the Rose Ladies Series, which Kate [his wife] and I set up to give the British female pros somewhere to play.
“With the Junior Championship, it is great to put back something into the sport that has given me so much and it’s fun and satisfying to be involved. But I’d be lying if I said that the motivation to get up in the morning is anything other than improving my golf game. When that desire is not there, it will be time to pack. But it still burns and, honestly, nowhere does it burn more fiercely than at the Masters.”