(Reuters) - It was at Royal Birkdale, scene of this week’s British Open Championship, that in 1998 Englishman Justin Rose first grabbed the attention of the golfing public in astonishing fashion.
On the 18th hole, in the final round, the then 17-year-old amateur, playing in his first major championship, chipped his wedge shot, from thick rough, into the hole for a birdie, producing what was described as one of the loudest roars ever heard on a course.
It also left him with a final round 69 and a tie for fourth in his first ever appearance in a major championship — although the scorecard that most impressed was arguably his second round of 66, the lowest in a day of extremely testing conditions which produced an average score of 74.7.
The skinny teenager was expected to be the next great star of British golf but it did not work quite like that.
After turning professional, Rose missed the cut in his first 21 events and although he gradually built up his form, reputation and ranking, it was not until the 2013 U.S. Open that he finally won a major.
Curiously, though, in the British event he has yet to better that finish from 19 years ago, something he admits he finds puzzling.
“There’s no real reason for it. It’s disappointing. I think maybe the expectation for a number of years afterwards took its toll coming back, trying to live up to it,” he said on Tuesday after practice at the links course.
“I feel now, though, at this stage of my career I’ve somewhat proved that wasn’t a flash in the pan, so I can come back to the Open a little freer than I could for a number of years,” he added.
“I’ve had a few, I would say outside chances of very good weeks that I haven’t quite capitalized upon in the past ... but obviously the record suggests it hasn’t been very good since.
“But I feel that I’m at a stage now where I can put all those past performances behind me and refocus on a good week,” he said.
Rose certainly does not try to blot out his past, even re-creating the shot for an Instagram post last week, and he says he would love to recapture some of the spirit of his debut.
“In some ways I look back and I try to model it, as well — just the freedom I had that particular week, the confidence I had in my short game, the innocence in which I played the game, I think, is still a model.
“I think that when I play my best golf I’m always trying to get rid of things, rather than add more — get rid of thoughts rather than add thoughts.
“When I looked at my performance here when I was 17 it was very much free, playing with freedom and using my natural ability. And obviously I had things going my way, too, that week.
“But when I do look back I do marvel at how I was able to compete so closely down the stretch, and finished within two shots of winning an Open Championship at the age of 17.
“I guess for me it was a glimpse into what my potential is. And hard work will create another chance here and there.”
Reporting by Simon Evans,; Editing by Neville Dalton