SOUTHPORT, England -- Justin Rose said winning the British Open is the only thing that could top how he felt when he pitched into the hole at the 18th at Royal Birkdale 10 years ago to finish fourth as a 17-year-old amateur.
In 1998, he hit a shot out of the rough that flew over a bunker and went straight into the hole to receive a standing ovation.
This place has lots of wonderful memories for me, Rose said Wednesday on the eve of the 137th Open at the same links course. Ive never experienced a bigger buzz than that moment on the 18th green, when that pitch shot went in. Ive had as satisfying moments on the golf course, but never quite that sort of buzz.
Ive always thought about what I achieved in 98 as being the next best thing to winning The Open. For me to experience something bigger, I need to go on and win this golf tournament.
The 27-year-old Rose, who has won four tournaments on the European tour but none in the United States, is still yet to achieve the results to match his talent.
However, his career has been far from routine.
Rose turned professional the day after the fourth-place Open finish in 1998, but immediately went into a dramatic decline. He had a harrowing 21 missed cuts in a row before he finally made it to a third round 11 months after turning pro, and had to rely on sponsors invitations to take part in some events.
During and after the trail of missed cuts, Rose was repeatedly asked if he had turned pro too soon and whether the decision was based on bravado after the Open.
I was turning pro after the Open Championship in 1998 no matter what happened, he said. My reason for doing that was that I felt like I had done not just everything in the amateur game but a lot of what I wanted to achieve, and I was just keen to turn pro and get going. I thought Id just turn pro quietly and get some experience under my belt before Q (qualifying) school at the end of the year. That was the grand plan.
All he did for almost a year was guarantee that he had the weekend off.
Rose said his family and advisers had agreed it would take him three years to establish himself on the tour. None of them anticipated just how slowly it would take him to get out of the blocks after his amazing finish to the 1998 Open.
That turned out to be a remarkably accurate three-year plan. But I think my expectations changed, everybody elses expectations of me changed, and I think therefore that ended up being a bit of a burden, he said of that memorable shot at the 72nd hole.
But at the same time a lot of doors were opened for me where I gained a lot of very valuable experience and some tough lessons were learned as well. Ultimately, its tough to look back and want to change anything because I feel like Ive come through a stronger person, a better player, hopefully.
Rose hasnt won a tournament this year. His best was a tie for second behind Kenny Perry at the Memorial at Muirfield Village on June 2.
Royal Birkdale has been lengthened since 1998, while some bunker replacements make for tricky shots off the tee toward narrower fairways guarded by deeper, snagging rough.
It just feels as if the course has got more teeth to it, Rose said. I think, in all, the golf course is more of a driving test, more of a test off the tee then possibly it was in the past.
Back at the course 10 years later, Rose refuses to let destiny decide if he will do something spectacular again.
No, Im not trying to put my chances of winning the tournament in the hands of fate, he said. I think I just want to go out there and prepare hard, play hard and hopefully thats what does the trick for me, not just thinking this is a magical place for me and its going to happen anyway.