AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - U.S. Open champion Justin Rose has been a forgotten man since his major title breakthrough last year at Merion, which suits the Englishman just fine heading into Thursday’s opening round of the Masters.
Rose has been out of the spotlight as he recovers from a bout of tendinitis in his right shoulder, enduring sub-par results after aggravating his condition last August.
But the world number eight said on Tuesday he is confident about the season’s first major.
“Feel ready to go, feel excited to go,” said Rose.
“I’m in a great place coming into this tournament. I’m coming in as a major champion, but I’m coming in with no hype, no expectation, a little under the radar and I feel good with where my game is at.”
Rose, who has played in only five events this year, finished eighth at the Valspar Championship last month for his best 2014 result but followed that by missing the cut at Bay Hill.
“Results-wise this year, I have nothing particularly to hang my hat on other than I know how my game is feeling and how things are shaping up,” he said.
Rose said his quiet season might work in his favor.
“It’s an advantage,” he said. “I’ve been able to just go about my business and prepare the way in which I would like without any distractions.
“I would say I’m coming into this week with a similar preparation to how I came into Merion,” said Rose, who held off Phil Mickelson and Australian Jason Day to become the first Briton in 43 years to win the U.S. Open.
“Did a lot of my work the week or two prior to the tournament and went back and practiced what I felt I was going to need.”
Rose, playing his ninth Masters, tied for fifth at Augusta in 2007 and had a shot at winning until driving into the trees on the 17th hole on Sunday. He tied for eighth two years ago.
Three times he has held the opening-round lead, and he was halfway leader in 2004.
“My chances are good. I feel like it’s a golf course that I’ve played well and played some great rounds on. The course suits my eye,” he said.
European players thrived at Augusta National over a 20-year period beginning with Seve Ballesteros’s first win at Augusta by a European at the 1980 tournament.
In 1999, Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain won his second green jacket, making it 11 European winners in that stretch including four in a row from 1988. But there has not been one since.
Rose would love to end the 14-year drought for Europeans and become the first British champion since Nick Faldo in 1996.
“From the European perspective, as what happened at Merion, it can be any week for any of us,” said Rose.
“Maybe the fact that it has not happened for quite a while, potentially the odds tend to go in your favor.”
Editing by Frank Pingue