My, how times have changed. Wednesday it was Rose taking down Duval in the opening round of the World Golf Championships ' Accenture Match Play Championship. They went two extra holes, going 20 before Duval missed a 5-foot par putt, giving Rose the victory in a tight match.
It was up-and-down, said the 22-year-old Englishman, and it was just fortunate that he finished up. Duval burst out to a 2-up lead after six holes, Rose battled back in the middle holes to take a 2-up lead, and then Duval birdied the 16th and 17th holes to tie it. Rose looked like a loser on the first playoff hole when he missed a makeable putt - but Duval also missed.
I was trying to look into the future ' I wondered whether Ill be unemployed tomorrow, or whether Ill be back out there fighting again, he said about his feelings after the 19th hole. But after a 6-iron nestled up to the shadow of the flagstick on the next playoff hole, it was settled. He will be out there fighting Thursday against the defending champion, Kevin Sutherland.
The 0-for-21 stretch made for lots of cruel jokes, but Rose says now he wouldnt want to trade it in for something more productive. Hell take the laughs and the snide remarks and be thankful for it.
I feel that bad period has made me tougher, said Rose. And its in match-play situations and situations coming down the stretch where you require strength. I feel thats where that period has helped me. Thats how I looked at it, bring a positive out here.
The last two years have been a turnaround. In 2001, he finished 33rd on the European Tour money list. Last year, he broke through with wins at the Dunhill Championship and British Masters, while winning two more times internationally in South Africa and Japan.
Now I believe I can win, he said. This year, hopefully, will be a breakthrough year in terms of Im playing much more on the world stage, the majors and the World Championships, and my schedule is pretty exciting this year. Its going to be a slightly different learning curve.
Now Rose is learning to be comfortable in the United States, where he is in the middle of a seven-week journey.
I think when you get in the top 50 in the world, you automatically play more in the States, in the majors and the Championships, Rose said. All the World Championships are in the States this year. A couple of warm-up tournaments before the Masters gives me nine already, without really trying to play over here.
Thats fun for me. I think while youre young and while you enjoy traveling, its cool to play that schedule.
Hes becoming more and more Americanized, learning to enjoy fast foods while making some fast friendships. All young lads like fast food, he said.
And, he met the defending champion. Sutherland walked past after his win over Sergio Garcia, turned, and said hi to Rose.
He introduced himself to me straight away, said Rose with a grin. Seems like a nice, friendly guy.
Thats always nice to play. Well try our hardest out there, and be very competitive. But its cool to play with somebody who will acknowledge you and be friendly out there.