Justin Rose landed in Philadelphia after flying from his family home in Orlando on Tuesday afternoon, with high hopes of landing the first major of his 15 year professional career.
This week’s host, the East Course at Merion Golf Club celebrated its centenary last year and is hosting it’s fifth U.S. Open. Characterised by narrow fairways, deep rough and distinct red wicker baskets in place of flags, it promises a stern test, despite wet conditions and further heavy rain forecast on Thursday.
Rose’s comments are those of a player confident about his game and with the challenge presented by Merion this week. He told the Daily Telegraph; “I’m No. 1 in total driving this year and they always say that is crucial at the US Open.”
Not only is total driving, a combination of distance and accuracy, important at Merion but so is accuracy with the longer irons, particularly with three of the four par 3 holes measuring over 236 yards. Rose ranks 5th in the PGA Tour on accuracy of approaches from between 225 yards and 250 yards.
Of equal importance this week will be player’s proficiency with the wedges. Assuming players hit the fairway, there will be plenty of short, precise approach shots needed. Rose ranks 2nd in approaches from 50-125 yards on the PGA Tour, averaging 14ft 3 inches from the hole on each of those shots.
On the course itself, Rose says; “I like Merion; it reminds me of Walton Heath, Sunningdale, those sort of English courses. So it should suit me.”
This piece of recognition by Rose is no coincidence; the designer of the East Course was a Scottish immigrant and member of the club named Hugh Wilson, who, having never designed a golf course before, undertook a seven month trip of England and Scotland to examine British courses.
Rose’s form this season has been strong, without being spectacular - this can be attributed to his putting.
The PGA Tour’s mysterious statistic “strokes gained – putting”, a measurement that establishes a statistical baseline per hole and then determines whether a player lost or gained a stroke on that hole versus the rest of the field, ranks Rose 156th out of 183 players. However, the slower rain-soaked greens of Merion are likely to help his putting and allow for a more aggressive style.
With the forecast at Merion set to be very much English in kind, damp with heavy rain showers, even the weather looks to be in the Englishman’s favour, don’t be surprised if you see Justin Rose and Tiger Woods in the final group on Sunday, or Monday given the forecast, with Rose prevailing to lift his first major title at the age of 32.