GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - Justin Rose is blossoming into a leading man at the Ryder Cup and forged what could become an enduring partnership with former Florida neighbor Henrik Stenson at Gleneagles on Friday.
England’s Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion, teamed up with Sweden’s 2013 FedExCup playoff champion Stenson to register two points and help Europe into a 5-3 lead over the United States on the opening day.
“It’s been really, really special,” said Rose, who improved his stellar Ryder Cup record to eight wins and three losses after victories in the fourballs and foursomes with Stenson.
“Captain (Paul McGinley) put a lot of faith in me and Henrik this morning going out first, obviously kept us together and felt we were playing well,” added the 34-year-old.
“I thought we were really good today and strong today in alternate-shot. Just a great day. Really enjoyed it.”
Europe, who trailed 2 1/2-1 1/2 despite a 5 & 4 victory by Rose and Stenson over Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson in the morning, roared back in the alternate-shot format as Rose and Stenson added a two-up win over Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson.
The nomadic Stenson, a renowned ball-striker as is Rose who had carried a 2-3-2 record into his third Ryder Cup and first since 2008, was playing with his seventh different partner.
”He definitely is a keeper,“ joked world number five Stenson, who had not played with the same partner twice before his roaring success with Rose. ”It was a great day.
”He’s a solid player all around. He’s got a sharp short game. He was putting really good today. Made some crucial putts and he was driving the ball nicely as well.
“He’s a great all-around player with a very high capacity. I could have found worse partners, I promise you,” chuckled Stenson.
McGinley agreed and will be sending Rose and Stenson out again in Saturday morning’s opening fourball match against Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar.
Rose should be recovered from a bee sting out on the course that left his right thumb swollen.
”It’s still stinging, obviously a bit swollen,“ he told reporters. ”But that has not affected the golf at all.
“I feel relatively fresh considering. My legs feel it, but mentally and physically, for the most part, feeling good.”
McGinley made their pairing sound somewhat scientific.
“You make decisions to the best of your ability and based on the information you have and your instinct, and some work and some don‘t,” he said.
“Those two guys are together for a particular reason. It’s based on my understanding of who they are as people, as well as golfers.”
Stenson, 38, made it sound like a logical choice.
“It was a great day at the office. I felt that all along. I was very happy to partner up with Justin,” he said.
“We know each other well since before, even though we never played together in events like this.”
”We’ve lived 40 yards away from each other for a good
three, four years,” added the Swede.
“Our kids have played together and of course we travel together to tournaments and all the rest of it. We’re good friends and that makes it a whole lot easier.”
Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Ed Osmond