Calif.’s PEBBLE BEACH — At the beginning of the year, Justin Rose had a different set of objectives.
His back was beginning to bother him. His position in the globe dropped to its lowest level in 13 years. He also has good cause to consider alternatives to Augusta National for the first full week of April.
All of that changed on Monday morning when Rose finished a demanding week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with three rapid birdies and four solid pars, giving him his first win in four years by three shots.
An invitation to the Masters is included with the crystal trophy, which is his 11th on the PGA Tour and 23rd overall, as well as the $1.62 million prize. Rose does not want to break his run of being eligible for every major tournament since St. Andrews in 2010.
Rose remarked, “Augusta’s obviously been a significant part of being on my mind,” after finishing with a 6-under 66 in ideal, cold Pebble Beach conditions. I believed that the simplest strategy was to try to play my way into the top 50 in the world, climb the world rankings, and achieve that position. Obviously, this is a better way to make it by winning a competition, he said, tapping the crystal on a table next to him. So, from that perspective, a great relief.
With an eagle-birdie-par stretch along the ocean on Sunday night, Rose staked himself to a 2-shot lead and forced a Monday finish due to the tournament’s wind delay.
At various points on the course, he knocked out as many as a dozen players who were within three shots of the lead.
Rose began his round with a solid two-putt par on the 10th. He then sank birdie putts of 25, 20, and 8 feet on the 11th, 13th, and 14th holes to finish his round with three birdies.
After that, it was all about staying safe and taking in the scenery.
The final three hours of play featured a stunning blue sky and big surf, adding to the already top-notch golf course scenery. Despite the week’s weather, which was everything, all the time.
Brendon Todd (65), who finished 3 shots behind Rose, and Brandon Wu
Rose described the past week as “an incredible week from start to finish with so much happening in my favor.”
The Englishman, 42, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2019, Torrey Pines, was his most recent victory. His lowest ranking since early 2010 came at No. 76 when he finished the previous year.
Amazing how long it’s been, Rose said after his triumph, which saw him climb to No. 35.
The back nine, which was so challenging in the dying moments of Sunday night, posed no danger on Monday. The wind was slight and blowing against the players rather than into them, if anything it was blowing at their backs.
All during the week, the weather had a significant impact, and Rose profited the most.
He hit a 5-wood into the par-3 ninth at the Monterey Peninsula when he was 6 shots off the lead and in no position to catch up, facing the strongest wind of the week. The wind drove his ball about 4 feet further away before he had a chance to mark it.
The Monterey Peninsula’s ninth and fifteenth greens were the problematic ones, and that was enough for officials to halt play on all three of the courses in the rotation. Rose came back on Sunday morning and sank a 7-foot birdie putt.
If golf balls — his and others’ — weren’t flying around at that point, what were the chances of him winning?
It causes them great pain. That was a break, Rose agreed. “I think if you’re out here on tour for long enough, you sometimes get a lucky break. That was a decent one, then.
He finished the last 10 holes in 6 under par to grab the lead with a 65, and a crucial stretch on Sunday night gave him a lead. Rose then took over, turning the weekend into a master lesson in iron play and superb putting.
Denny McCarthy missed birdie opportunities on holes 16 and 17 and was two strokes behind when play began. He ultimately shot 64 and finished four strokes behind Keith Mitchell (68) and Peter Malnati.
Pebble delivered a little bit of everything this week, although wind predominated over rain most of the time. On Sunday, all four weather conditions—rain, wind, hail, and sunshine—coexisted for almost an hour.
All of it had vanished by the time Rose had finished, her grin as radiant as the sun.
It was a pretty beautiful moment, he added, “just the stroll up 18 to be able to establish a little of a lead, to sort of savour it.” The fact that it happened today on a weather day like we had and at a venue like we had today was simply worth waiting for, especially when you’re a little famished for a victory.