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Justin Rose is plotting an Open victory on home soil

For a golfer brought up in a Hampshire town called Hook, Justin Rose has not done too badly for himself.

Justin Rose says winning The Open would be the crowning achievement of his career    Photograph: Getty
Justin Rose says winning The Open would be the crowning achievement of his career Photograph: Getty

It is now 16 years since the scrawny teenage waif in a maroon sweater illuminated The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale by chipping in from the rough on the 72nd hole to claim a share of fourth as a precocious amateur.

Rose's relationship with the game's oldest Major runs deep, of course. Birkdale may have been his breakthrough moment, but his affection for The Open has its roots north of the border.

As a 14-year-old, he battled his way through to the final qualifying shoot-out for the St Andrews showpiece in 1995 and ever since then the shimmering Claret Jug has always enticed. He may have conquered on American soil and captured his maiden Major title in the US Open at Merion last season, but the original Open remains the most sought after prize.

"I have a great affinity with The Open going back to those days when I got to final qualifying at Scotscraig," reflected Rose, who, at that time, was aiming to become the youngest player to contest an Open since John Ball in 1878.

"I feel like winning The Open would be the one. It's like what Novak Djokovic said at Wimbledon; that's the one that's most special to him. For a British player it's the most special. We all want to win a Major and whatever one comes along first that's great. It's nice to get the monkey off your back, but if you can go on and win an Open? Well, that's it. Phil Mickelson realised just what it meant to win an Open last year and we'd all feel that way."

Apart from those amateur dramatics at Birkdale in 1998, Rose has hardly bloomed in the grand Open garden down the years. Indeed, the best finishes for this Englishman have arrived on Scottish turf, with a share of 12th place at Carnoustie in 2007 and a tie for 13th at Turnberry two years later.

This week, The Open bandwagon rumbles into Hoylake for the first time since that sizzling summer of 2006 when Tiger Woods plotted an imperious path to victory. Back then, Rose was an outsider looking in. He was still settling into life on the PGA Tour, but wasn't yet a regular Major player.

"That was sort of a remotivating period in my life when I was out on the sidelines missing these Majors," he admitted. "I just remember it [Hoylake] being burnt out, really warm, people eating ice cream and Tiger winning."

Rose, who has missed the cut in three of his last four Open appearances, knows his track record in the championship is far from dazzling, but the world No 6 believes a quick perusal of the simple stats do not give the full picture.

"I've been fantastic," he said sarcastically when asked to rate his Open performances on a sliding scale of one to 10. "But there are two sides to this story. If you simply look at the record books then it isn't very good. But in 2002 at Muirfield, with a little bit more experience, I had a chance to win there [he eventually tied 22nd].

"And if I'd been putting like I am now at Turnberry in 2009 then I think I'd have won there too. I have played a lot of good golf in The Open but just haven't put four rounds together. I know how to play links and have given myself some decent looks."

How Rose looks at Hoylake remains to be seen. Eight years ago, Woods employed his driver just once over the course of four rounds as he mapped out the kind of meticulous route usually reserved for those who opt for celestial navigation.

"You can always see people laying back on every hole, but that then means you have to hit a lot of good, long irons into the greens," said Rose, as he mulled over his strategy for this week's challenge. "It's hard to judge how a ball will land and then roll if you aim 20 yards short of a green. That won't leave you many birdie chances. You would really need to putt the eyeballs out of the course that way.

"From 200 yards in, even if you hit the green, you will be 30 feet away most holes. If you are a straight driver, then give yourself a 9-iron and a wedge. If not then go for accuracy and hope the putter works well from distance. There are many ways to play it. I don't think it suits any particular type of player. It could suit anyone from G-Mac [Graeme McDowell] to Bubba Watson."

Fresh from a PGA Tour victory in the Quicken Loans National at Congressional recently, before manoeuvring himself into contention after two rounds of the Scottish Open, Rose seems to be building up a good head of steam ahead of his latest Open assault.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, though," he stated. "That's the downside of feeling the buzz. If the buzz goes your way at an Open then there's no better feeling. An Open roar is different to any other tournament. If you are not playing well you sense an urgency from the fans, if you go well then it can carry you."

And should he require any more inspiration, would he be tempted to look back on those teenage kicks of '98? "I haven't reflected on it for a long time ... but maybe this week I will."

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