Despite his lofty world ranking, Justin Rose has hardly been a name on everyone’s lips going into the Players Championship which begins today.
The world number 10 did not play at the Sawgrass TPC last year, rehabilitating his injured back at the time, and has struggled to light up the golf world recently.
Last month at the Masters he was the joint first round leader, but he eventually finished equal 36th.
At the following week’s Heritage he had to pull out after the first round with a recurrence of his back pain, taking a week off before missing the cut in Charlotte last week.
“I had a few little twinges at Hilton Head but they disappeared as soon as they came. I’ve just got to keep an eye on how long I practise,” Rose said as he worked on his putting stroke on the eve of the tournament.
Last year, when the Players Championship was moved from March to May, the course was re-grassed and it now plays quite differently.
“It’s the first time I’ve played it since they changed it to bermuda (grass),” he said.
“It’s a totally different course. The rough’s shorter but it plays more difficult. It’s a classic American-style golf course and now it’s a bit more bouncy and fiery.”
Rose, who has a new caddie this week, Mark Fulcher replacing fellow Englishman Mick Doran, is part of a seven-man British contingent in the 144-man field, joining Ian Poulter, Brian Davis, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Richard Johnson.
It has been well documented that only one European – Sandy Lyle in 1987 – has won the event.
What is not quite so well known is that a European has finished runner-up no fewer than eight times – Bernhard Langer (1993 and 1995), Padraig Harrington (2003, 2004), Nick Faldo (1992), Colin Montgomerie (1996), Luke Donald (2005) and Sergio Garcia (2007).
This suggests it is just an anomaly that there have not been more European winners, because it is not as though they have not been around the mark.
Meanwhile, Masters champion Trevor Immelman is still adjusting to life as a major champion.
An exhausted Immelman has missed the cut the past two weeks, and it would take a brave punter to back him this week.
“I’ve got two weeks off after this and it’s going to be nice to get home and just decompress, and figure out how I’m going to go about it from here,” said Immelman, a South African who lives in Orlando, Florida.
“After I won, it was such a high and then I had to deal with everything that I no clue what to expect.
“My game has gone sideways since then too, so that’s been a little disappointing, going out to play again and not being focused.
“I need to get some time away just to think about how I’m going to start building again from here.”
Among the things that has surprised Immelman: “I probably get about 30 or 40 Masters flags arriving at my house everyday. I never had to deal with that problem, not that it’s a problem.”