Justin Rose was close to being the ‘bad guy’ - but eventually relented.
The gold medal-winning Olympian was hoping to become the first US Open and Masters champion from England but saw his hopes dashed in a play off against close friend Sergio Garcia on an incredible Masters Sunday.
And, in a moment of sportsmanship of the highest order, Rose said that whilst he was “disappointed”, losing to Garcia made the bitter pill easier to swallow.
“It’s going to sting for sure,” said. “I’m disappointed. But you can’t feel bad for me. If there was anyone to lose to it’s Sergio. Sergio is obviously the best player never to win a major no longer. Any time someone gets that monkey off their back makes it a poignant championship.”
Garcia, for a change, had a US crowd on his side, and Rose said that was a mark of respect the US fans had shown the Spaniard after years of torture in golf’s biggest events. “It’s good for Sergio to be supported. Sometimes he feels like he’s not supported. I think they realised he’d paid his dues. They realised he’d been close so many times and people felt strongly that it was his time.”
Rose said it soon became apparent it was a two-horse race in the final round as charges from Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and debutant Thomas Pieters didn’t come to fruition on Augusta’s famous closing stretch. With the field shrinking, all eyes were on the final pairing.
“It came down to the back nine on Sunday which this tournament is famous for,” he said. “It must have been fun to watch.”
With Garcia’s bogeys at ten and 11 – his first dropped shots in 18 holes – Rose looked like he had one arm inside a green jacket as Garcia wobbled.
“This one is one that slipped by, for sure. But I can’t pick holes in my performance. For the most part I’m not going to second-guess one or two shots. Barring a great comeback from Sergio it was mine to cruise to the house. Before I won at Merion, you’ve got to be willing to lose majors. I loved it out there.”
Despite the pain of the loss, Rose said a green jacket is in his future somewhere down the line.
“I definitely feel like this is a tournament that I’m going to win one day,” he said. “I’ll have plenty more looks. I feel confident here, I enjoy being here.
“It is my favourite tournament of the year. I still have a bunch of good years in me and this is hopefully a tournament I can knock off one day.”