Two weeks after finishing in a tie for second at the Masters a year ago, Justin Rose came to TPC Louisiana on a serious roll and hardly let up in claiming the title in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with a course-record 22-under 266.
That he won wasn’t a shock considering Rose is one of the world’s top players, but that he did it while enduring hours of weather delays and playing the final 66 holes bogey-free while carding 23 birdies was a testament to his skill and shot-making.
As he prepares to defend his title, Rose talks about his victory here, his affinity for the city of New Orleans and giving back $25,000 of his prize money to the Fore!Kids Foundation to support children’s charities.
With this year’s tournament coming up, what do you remember about winning the title here last year?
In the first round, I had a good second nine (he started his round on the back nine and had a bogey and double-bogey on Nos. 15 and 16) and kind of felt like I didn’t lose too much momentum early in the tournament. Then, from that point on, I just played some good steady golf and got myself into contention.
There was a bunched leaderboard coming down the stretch Sunday. What was the key to you taking control?
I remember playing No. 16 and thinking to myself, “I’m going to have to do something special coming in.” Whoever was going to win the tournament was going to have to do something to break out of the pack.
You did it with back-to-back birdies on the final two holes. What was it like to finish like that — especially with the one at No. 17 (one of the toughest holes on the course) after coming close to the water?
No. 17 is a tough one to try and make a birdie, but I hit a great 5-iron in there left of the hole. There’s water over there, and it’s not exactly where you’re aiming. I was trying to hit an aggressive shot in there (to 10 feet), probably trying to hit it eight feet to the right of the hole … not eight feet to the left. Either way, it was a good shot, and it was an important shot to give myself an opportunity to birdie No. 18.
You won it by a stroke with a 13-foot birdie there. What was that like, to finish it off in style there?
It was a fun place to make a putt like that, in front of a lot of my friends. Being a Zurich ambassador for a number of years, I’ve made a lot of friends in this organization, and obviously it was fun to win in front of them. It meant a lot to me personally and it was fun to share it with them. It’s nice to re-live it once in a while.
Golf aside, you made a nice donation from your winnings to the Fore!Kids Foundation. How important is that?
One thing Zurich seems to do very, very well is support the community in which they work. That’s incredibly important to an insurance company, because they have to deal with tough situations, people trying to rebuild their lives. So it’s important. Also, the PGA Tour drums it into us to support the cities that we visit. To have such a fantastic week and come away with so much from such a great city, I felt it was important for me to give back.
In the past, you have talked about your love for the city and have been here seven years in a row and 10 total. What’s it like to come back as the defending champion?
It’s an event I’ve always enjoyed coming to. It’s a fun week, and a lot of players really embrace that. They have a couple of functions during the week and they’re well-attended. Sometimes it’s difficult to get PGA Tour players out of their normal routine, so it’s a testament to what New Orleans is all about and a testament to this tournament.
I always look forward to coming back because I have a lot of friends now within the Zurich organization and it’s always a joy to see them and catch up with them.