World number two Justin Rose returns to action at the Arnold Palmer Invitational starting in Florida on Thursday after taking the past month off to put “some gas back in the tank” before the business part of the season. The four major championships come thick and fast over the next few months, which is why Rose skipped recent tournaments most other top players contested, including the WGC-Mexico Championship.
“I’ve had four weeks off at home, purposely, putting some gas back in the tank, counter-acting a lot of travel on the back end of last season,” the Englishman said at Bay Hill in Orlando on Wednesday.
“It was needed (but) I’ve practised hard the last couple of weeks.”
Four rounds this week (assuming he makes the cut) should give Rose an idea of the state of his game heading to next week’s Players Championship, the most prestigious tournament outside the four majors.
Looming even larger on the horizon is the year’s first major, the April 11-14 Masters at Augusta National, where he lost a playoff two years ago to Sergio Garcia.
Rose is a winner this year, capturing the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in January, before flying halfway around the world to miss the cut at the European Tour’s Saudi International.
“I’m into a run of golf now. There’s a block of work starting this week,” said Rose, who thinks the Bay Hill course suits his game.
“There’s no way to fake it around Bay Hill. The rough’s pretty thick, generally greens are quite firm which requires pin-point iron shots. There are a lot of intimidating looking shots.
“It’s a horses for courses type of situation for me. You don’t feel like it’s a putting competition around here. You can play strategic golf, which is what I enjoy.”
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy is defending champion against what is still an impressive field despite the late withdrawal of eight-times winner Tiger Woods with a sore neck.
Like his European Ryder Cup team mate Rose, McIlroy is also playing with an eye towards Augusta, where this year he will have a fifth crack at completing the career grand slam of all four modern majors.
McIlroy is looking to join an exclusive club populated by Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods.
“I think sometimes I’m too much of a fan of the game, because I know exactly who has won the grand slam and I know exactly the people I would be putting myself alongside,” said the Northern Irishman.
“So there’s maybe a part of that, that if I didn’t know the history of the game and I wasn’t such a fan, it would work in my favour, but that’s not me.”