ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) - Chock full of confidence less than two months after capturing a maiden major title, Justin Rose used a spectacular inward nine to surge into contention at the PGA Championship on Friday.
Rose, who became the first Englishman in 43 years to win the U.S. Open in June, shot an inward nine of 29 at a rain-soaked Oak Hill country Club to complete a six-under 66 that left him two strokes back of clubhouse leader Jason Dufner (63).
The 33-year-old believes no longer having to chase his first major makes him even more dangerous as a contender in golf’s four elite championships.
“It’s wonderful to be in this situation right now, talking about having (won a major); talking about feeling like you can win more, believing in yourself, not talking about how I hope it could happen this week,” Rose told reporters. “So I think that alone makes it easier.”
After good friend and playing partner Adam Scott enjoyed his own breakthrough major victory at the Masters earlier this year, he sent a text message to Rose insisting “this is our time”.
Perhaps taking the lead from Australian Scott, who altered his training schedule with a focus on being in top form for golf’s four majors, Rose adopted a similar mindset.
“I’m getting to that point now this year where I’ve really focused on my preparation and come into them really, really focusing on them, trying to peak for them,” said Rose.
“When you’re not 100 percent ready to win majors, every week is a big week, but then I feel like you get your game to a point where you’re trying to make sure it’s ready four times a year.”
Rose, who tied for 25th at the Masters in April and missed the cut at last month’s British Open, heads into the weekend in prime position to capture another major thanks to a flawless finish to a round that opened in driving rain.
Two over for the day through nine holes after mixing three bogeys with a birdie, Rose turned on the jets as the rain stopped and navigated his way home with incredible precision.
He kickstarted his game into high gear, one-putting eight of his final nine holes and carding six birdies along the way.
His playing group also included British Open champion Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner who was 33 years old when he enjoyed his major breakthrough at the Masters.
For Rose, who considers the 43-year-old American one of the game’s greats, seeing Mickelson enjoy such success in the later stages of his career is inspiring.
“It’s motivating to know that you can still build that kind of career in your 30s,” said Rose. “But at the same time, you know, you understand how hard it is.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes