After futilely chasing Jordan Spieth around the Augusta National Golf Club layout for four days two weeks ago, Justin Rose is relaxed and refreshed for his next start in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
More importantly, Rose is happy with his game after giving it everything he had to keep up with Spieth during his record-setting victory at the Masters before taking a well-deserved week off from the PGA Tour grind.
Rose, the world’s ninth-ranked player, will get back at it Thursday in the first round of the $6.9 million Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana in a 156-man field that includes two other top-10 players: No. 6 Jason Day and No. 7 Dustin Johnson.
In his last tournament, Rose shot 14-under par and finished in a tie for second with Phil Mickelson — four strokes behind the 21-year-old Spieth, who matched the Masters record of 18-under held by Tiger Woods.
After playing in the Classic Pro-Am on Wednesday, Rose could only smile when he again was reminded how the score he put up would have won the Masters in almost any other year.
“I feel great about the Masters,” Rose said. “Jordan beat me with what you could argue is a record performance … an out-of-his-mind performance. To shoot 18-under at Augusta is incredible. I’d sign up for 14-under par every single year.”
The best thing, he said, is how he played while trying to remain in the tournament that Spieth dominated from start to finish. He became the first player to win the green jacket wire-to-wire without being tied since Raymond Floyd in 1976.
“Yeah, I’m very happy about that,” Rose said. “I was very pleased with how comfortable I felt under pressure while being in contention this year.
“It came out of a lot of hard work. I worked hard on my game after the Florida swing (in March) and got a grip on things. It was nice to see it come through for me in the biggest tournament.”
Rose said he had three full days of practice last week, even though he didn’t have anything in particular to sharpen up, and then shut things down for the weekend to get ready for his annual visit to New Orleans.
“I feel good about my game, and I feel I got a fair amount of rest while I kept my practice going,” he said. “I’m not resting on my laurels from Augusta; I’m keeping my work ethic up and looking forward to playing well this week.”
Rose is one of the favorites in the tournament that includes Day, Johnson and Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel, who are ranked 13th and 19th in the world.
Also returning to defend his title is Seung-Yul Noh, who won the Zurich title by two strokes last April over Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb.
Johnson, who is playing in New Orleans for the first time since 2008, tied for sixth at the Masters, while Day tied for 28th.
Like Rose, Johnson comes to New Orleans on a hot streak. In seven starts this season, he has five top-six finishes, topped by a victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month.
Johnson, the favorite at 8-to-1 to win here ahead of Rose and Day at 10-1, ranks second on the PGA Tour in scoring average with a 69.57 — just behind Spieth’s 69.25.
Even though he’s been playing well for most of the year, like Rose, Johnson couldn’t overcome Spieth’s stellar play at Augusta even though he carded a Masters-record three eagles in the second round.
“I just played OK. … It was, you know, it wasn’t great,” he said. “I didn’t have my ‘A’ game. At times, it was really good, but at times my misses were bad.
“I chipped and putted well, I just didn’t hit it well enough to contend with Jordan. He played unreal.”
Noh is struggling a little after getting a new swing coach and trainer this winter. He best finish was a tie for 11th at the Northern Trust Open.
“I struggled a little at the start of the season, everything is tough,” he said. “When you keep doing the same thing, it’s going to get better and then feel better. So hopefully, it’s good for this week and then hopefully end the season with some pretty good results coming up.”