The Open Championship has been full of epic performances. Now it’s time for me to deliver.
Ihave so many memories of The Open Championship. One of my favourites was when Seve made that birdie on the 18th to win at St Andrews in 1984. I loved the classic navy blue V-neck sweater with the white shirt underneath. That’s the look and style that I try to have on the golf course, and I especially try to recreate that at The Open because of how iconic that moment was for me. Then you’ve got Faldo playing impeccably at St Andrews in 1990. I was just about to turn 10 and at that impressionable age so I’ll always associate Nick with those Pringle sweaters. I also went to the 1993 Open that Greg Norman won at Royal St George’s when I was 12. It was an incredible experience.
When you’re young, you think it’s easy and don’t quite know what’s involved, but I had absolutely no doubts that I was going to be a professional golfer from the age of about 12. I’ve holed the putt to win The Open a thousand times on the putting green at my home club, North Hants. My record at The Open isn’t as good as I’d like it to be. A little lady luck always helps so you’re on the right side of the draw for the week. But I’ve played in 16 Opens to date so there’s no doubt that I’ve been on the good side of the draw enough times to have produced better results than I have. Maybe going back to finishing T-4 as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998, I’ve put too much pressure on myself and had too much expectation.
I think Carnoustie is a good test and a good course for me. It’s definitely one that I’m focusing on this year and I really want to start doing a better job of competing and contending in The Open. It’s not that time’s running out, but I’m 37 so there aren’t going to be dozens of chances coming. It’s time to do what my good friend Henrik Stenson has done and put one away.
I played The Open at Carnoustie in 1999 and 2007 and I’ve played the course in the Dunhill Links a few times. It was impossible in 1999 the way they grew the rough and the weather we had – it was probably one of the hardest courses I’ve ever played. But it’s been very playable in the Dunhill Links and I’ve shot in the mid-60s around there so it all depends on the set-up and the weather. It’s a narrow golf course and the bunkers frame each hole really well, a bit like Muirfield. Like any links course, you’ve got to keep threading the needle off the tee. It’s a really nice test of golf.
I’m going to make a separate trip up to Carnoustie to learn the course because if you just rely on Monday, Tuesday
and Wednesday of Open week for your preparation then that might not be enough given the elements. The wind might switch, which renders your preparation pretty much useless, so the more rounds you can get under your belt the better. Adam Scott will basically camp out around Carnoustie for a couple of weeks and play the course pretty much every day for a fortnight to experience as many different wind directions as he can and get really comfortable playing the course.
I’ll make some tweaks to my equipment, too. Whereas at Augusta I use a 62° wedge, I’ll probably look at a 58° wedge with a little less bounce for Carnoustie because that’s more functional on the tighter turf around the greens there. I’ll also look to get comfortable with more long irons in the bag. Most of the year I play a five-wood but I want something I can sting low off the tee to keep it out the wind and run it out on the ground.
I really enjoy playing the Irish and Scottish Opens ahead of The Open. I tend to flip flop between the two, but this year I’m going to play the Scottish Open at Gullane and play my way into Carnoustie the following week. I tend to play the Irish if The Open is in England because I like being in Scotland for two weeks when The Open is there.
Winning The Open would mean everything to me and it would be a full circle moment in my career because that’s where it all started for me at Birkdale in 1998 and beginning my pro career the next week. I’d really, really enjoy the whole experience and I’d enjoy every dinner I had after that with the Claret Jug in the middle of the table.
Justin Rose is a US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist who has played on the PGA and European Tours for 18 years.