Both men, however, have not performed particularly well in their home Open. Rose’s best finish remains a fourth-place tie in 1998 at Royal Birkdale as a 16-year-old amateur. Willett has only played in four Opens and has missed the cut twice.
Last year’s Open at St. Andrews, both believe, was a turning point in their respective careers in this championship. Willett, the current Masters champ, tied for sixth at the Old Course but played alongside Zach Johnson. He gained valuable Open experience
“Whenever you play with someone and see them win and then you kind of look back, regardless of where you finish, you look back and see how they did it and what they did,” Willett said Tuesday at Royal Troon. “Did they do anything special? Is there anything you can take from it that you could change or do? And the one thing that’s impressive about Zach is Zach never changes the game plan for anyone, any golf course. Regardless of who he’s playing against, he just does his own thing.”
Although Willett won the Masters, he’s struggled with form lately having missed the cut in his last two events.
Rose has struggled, only because he’s just now returning from a back injury. After a 19th-place tie at The Players, Rose did not play again until the U.S. Open to help heal an ailing back. He returned and missed the cut at the U.S. Open and followed it up with a T-46 two weeks ago at the no-cut WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
To help shake off some more rust, Rose has been at Troon for a week already. He arrived last Tuesday and has played numerous practice rounds, and has seen the course play with every wind direction imaginable.
“I feel like I’m rounding into form,” Rose said. “I feel like some of the thought processes that a player goes through, I feel like they’re simplified or solidifying in my mind what’s going to be my strategy going into the week, what’s going to be my swing feel, what I’m working on in my game, my short game, my putting.
“I feel like I have a clear handle on all that.”
Like Willett, Rose tied for sixth place last year at the Old Course, only his second-career top-10 finish in The Open.
“There haven’t been many, I would say in the last few years, but obviously my Open Championship form is something I’ve definitely been conscious about and really doing my best to turn around,” Rose said. “I think last year was obviously a nice step in the right direction.”