On a steamy, blustery day at sun-splashed TPC Louisiana when many players were seeing red, defending Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion Justin Rose couldn’t see anything on the greens.
“I struggled,” he said Friday. “I just couldn’t get it going. I couldn’t see a putt. I couldn’t read a putt. I couldn’t sniff a putt. The greens were grainy. I just couldn’t see ’em this year, so that’s that.”
After going 1-under-par through six holes before darkness forced him off the rain-soaked course Thursday, Rose played 30 holes Friday at 1-over to finish even-par 144 with rounds of 72-72.
It extended his streak of rounds at par or better to 18 at TPC Louisiana dating to a missed cut in 2011. But it likely won’t be good enough for him to reach the third round. The projected cut was 2-under when darkness halted second-round play Friday night. If that number stands, Rose will miss the cut by two shots.
If Rose falls short, it would be the third consecutive year that the defending champion in New Orleans missed the cut. Billy Horschel, the 2013 champion, failed by two shots in 2014, and Seung-Yul Noh (2014) withdrew after one round last year.
“I felt like every opportunity I had, I let slip away,” Rose said. “And then, obviously, you don’t see any putts going in. I just tried to fight through it and keep grinding. I kept trying to work toward the cut line because I knew that, if I could get to the weekend, I could post some pretty good numbers around here.”
Rose’s performance Friday was in sharp contrast to his stellar play in last year’s final round, when weather delays forced him to finish with 30 holes. Last year, he played those 30 holes in 10-under to post a course record 22-under 266 and win by a shot over Cameron Tringale.
This year, it was as if TPC Louisiana turned its back on a past champion.
“I have played pretty well here,” said Rose, the world’s No. 10 player and a virtual lock to represent Great Britain in the Rio Olympics. “Every time you come here, you get nothing for free. If you’re playing well, you get a good score. I didn’t do a whole lot wrong, but I didn’t do a whole lot right, either. I just couldn’t get any momentum going. It was kind of a blah week, unfortunately.”
Rose hadn’t played on the PGA Tour since finishing tied for 10th at the Masters in early April. It showed — particularly with his putter. He needed 31 putts in round one and 30 in the second.
He made a late charge to make the cut with birdie putts from 15 and 5 feet on Nos. 7 and 8, his finishing nine. But it was too little, too late.
“I was aware of the cut line all day,” he said. “When you’re behind the cut line, you always know where it is. It’s always like a moving target. But that’s golf, isn’t it? There’s always next week.”
Next week for Rose: The Players Championship on May 12-15 at TPC Sawgrass.