ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) - U.S. Open winner Justin Rose will tee off at this week’s PGA Championship in very special company as he bids to transform what has already been “a fantastic year” for him into an “incredible” one.
In keeping with tradition, the season’s first three major champions are grouped together for the opening two rounds so Rose will play alongside Australian Adam Scott (Masters) and American Phil Mickelson (British Open) at Oak Hill Country Club.
“I’m in the fortunate position of playing in that group that everyone wants to be in,” English world number four Rose told reporters on Wednesday about starting the year’s final major on Thursday in illustrious company.
“I’m really looking forward to the experience for the first time and looking to really turn a fantastic year into an incredible one.
“Obviously the more accomplished you become as a player, the more you really single out the major championships. And the more times you get to the U.S. PGA, the more you realize it’s your last chance of the season to make it a fantastic year.”
Making Rose’s draw at Oak Hill even tastier is the fact that he and Scott are good friends while the Englishman and Mickelson have competed against one another more than once in recent years on some of golf’s biggest stages.
“Adam is a great friend of mine, and I couldn’t have been happier when he won the Masters,” Rose said of Scott’s victory in April at Augusta National where he became the first Australian to claim the year’s first major.
“And to follow him as a major champion was sort of icing on the cake really.
“Beating Phil at the U.S. Open, obviously with his record there, I was delighted to win, but you have to feel for Phil in that situation, too. So I was also happy for him to win the (British) Open championship.”
American left-hander Mickelson had to settle for a record sixth runner-up spot in the U.S. Open, finishing two strokes behind Rose at Merion after bogeying three of the last six holes.
“Phil and I have had some good golf over the last eight or nine months, if you include the Ryder Cup,” said Rose, referring to his one-up victory over the American in the Cup singles at Medinah last year.
“We’ve had some nice head-to-head battles and had some fun out on the golf course. So for me, it’s a really, really fun pairing the next couple of days.”
Long regarded as one of the game’s top players, Rose believes he is well equipped to avoid the lengthy dip in form experienced by several first-time major winners in recent years.
“I haven’t particularly gotten any advice from the other guys or anything like that, but I’m aware of that not being the case for me,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made those adjustments myself.
“I felt uncomfortable talking about Merion and just keep celebrating that win, I just didn’t feel right. I feel like it’s something to look back on at the end of my career.
“All of us at this point in our careers need to have our heads down, need to play as hard as you can, need to amass as much success as you can.
“And you look back at it in 10, 15 years time and think, ‘That was good, that was bad, I could have done more, I should have done this, should have done that.’ But only at that point are you really going to know what you can achieve.”
Rose, Mickelson and Scott are scheduled to tee off at 1:45 p.m. (1745 GMT) in Thursday’s opening round at Oak Hill.
Editing by Frank Pingue