Spectacular is a word that comes to mind when you stand on the green at the par-3 ninth on Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course and scan the landscape.
Courtesy of an architectural visionary named Mike Strantz, who reversed the direction of holes 5 through 15 on the Shore Course so you could “dance among the Cypress,” awe-inspiring windswept views come at you with every step. From the ninth green, you can gaze across 17-Mile Drive and get lost in the splendor of a Pacific Ocean that seemingly stretches to infinity and beyond.
But even as undisturbed as that view is, could Justin Rose from that green Sunday morning see himself holding up the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am crystal?
Waves crashing into rocks, deer meandering in and out of sand dunes, people strolling the famed 17-Mile Drive. The Englishman could see all that.
But storming from six shots off the lead with just 28 holes remaining? Rose wasn’t going to commit to an answer in the affirmative, but he did think he saw an opening.
“I realized the opportunity I had,” he said Monday morning, after he had indeed nailed down a three-stroke win in a legendary tournament on an iconic stage. “The way the wind had shifted and the way Monterey Peninsula was playing (Sunday morning). I knew there were birdies to be had. From a mentality point of view, that wasn’t lost on me.”
How the 42-year-old Rose cleaned up that deficit and rode into the winner’s circle for the first time since the Farmers Insurance Open four years ago – a stretch
covering 67 PGA TOUR tournaments and 80 worldwide – started innocently enough and only built improbable steam.
He rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt when he played that ninth hole at MPCC Sunday morning, then blitzed the back nine in 5-under 32. From six behind, he was 12-under and in the lead by one over Peter Malnati and Kurt Kitayama when he moved back to Pebble Beach for the fourth round late Sunday.
Little did Rose realize what floodgates that birdie roll at MPCC’s ninth green would unleash.
Buoyed by a burst of energy Sunday evening – an eagle at the par-5 sixth, birdie at the par-3 seventh – Rose regained a lead that he would not relinquish. Not that others didn’t make charges, because Denny McCarthy did go out in 29 in Sunday’s fourth round and Brendon Todd played 12 holes in 5-under Sunday, then returned Monday morning to knock down birdie putts at Nos. 13 and 14 to momentarily get within one of Rose.
Ah, but the Englishman flashed the form that had been so consistent with him from 2010-19, a time during which he won 10 times over a stretch of 165 PGA TOUR tournaments.
He reached No. 1 in the world during those days but should you think that Rose had two negatives to hang his disappointment on – he had gone four years without a win and had dropped to No. 71 in the world – think again.
“Neither,” he said, when asked which one bothered him more. “Just not feeling like I’ve been hitting solid golf shots . . . actually the feeling of how I’ve played. Those have been the frustrating parts.”
What he did over the final 28 holes – two eagles and nine birdies against just one bogey – got him home in 18-under 269 to finish three ahead of Todd (65) and Brandon Wu (66). His tidy 66 to close at Pebble required two days, yes, but it was the product of endless patience and perseverance given how significantly he had fallen off his game.
Rose conceded that he had set his GPS to get within the Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. That was the route that he had focused on, but crazy how this golf business works, the win at Pebble Beach takes care of the Augusta matter. (Rose also moves from 71st to 35th in the world order, and from No. 77 to No. 10 on the FedExCup.)
It serves as a reminder, he said, that he’s gone about his duties in a proper fashion. Rose didn’t push to be No. 1 in the world. He is not stressed about making Ryder Cup teams, nor does he put pressure on himself to improve statistically in specific categories.
Instead, “my only goal is to really play well enough where I can win majors,” he said. “And the No. 1 rule is, you’ve got to be in them.”
Cognizant of the constant changes that are in anyone’s life, Rose doesn’t make a big deal of his move back to England with wife Kate and children Leo, 13, and Charlotte, 10. “We just felt like education was important to us. Putting them first is the reason (for the move from the Bahamas).”
But he does emphasize that the magnitude of his victory hit him as he played Pebble’s iconic par-5 18th hole. “I feel like I have been fortunate enough to win at some great venues,” he said. “But Pebble’s right up there.
“Just that walk up 18 to sort of be able to build a bit of a lead and be able to enjoy it was a very special moment. I think when you’re a bit starved for a win as well, the fact that it came on a weather day like we had (glorious sunshine after two days of blustery wind and heavy downpours) and a venue we had was just worth waiting for.”