An Open triumph at Carnoustie this week would “feel like it was pre-written” for Justin Rose after one of the favourites for the Championship was awarded honorary membership of the golf club where it all began.
The world number three was back at Scotscraig yesterday, 23 years on from when he tried to win his way through final qualifying for the 1995 St Andrews Open as a 14-year-old.
“A lot of people think my Open story started at Birkdale (where he finished fourth as an amateur),” Rose told Courier Sport.
“But my love affair with the Open started right here at Scotscraig. This shines a light on a little chapter of my career that hasn’t been given much attention.
“It’s bringing happy memories flooding back.
“In ’95 my brother came over from South Africa to caddy for me. My mum and dad were here. And Ron and Veronah Caird were hosting me.
“I was still at school and riding a high. I qualified through the regionals at my home club, North Hants, with a 67. That created a bit of a media stir and I certainly thought it was a big deal at the time.
“I came up here with the dream of playing the Open at St Andrews. I acquitted myself pretty well at Scotscraig – a 70 and 73, from memory.
“It was such a great experience for a 14-year-old. Not so much the actual golf but being on the big stage for the first time, dealing with the media and things like that.
“To be given membership of the club 23 years on is a real honour. A lot has happened in those 23 years and days like this make you realise that you made the right decision in becoming a professional.
“To feel I’m part of the club’s story and the club is part of my story is really nice.”
And a fairytale Open ending for a player who is in the best form of his career, and only has world number one Dustin Johnson ahead of him in the pre-championship betting, has crossed his mind.
The former US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist said: “Absolutely. Let’s just dream for a minute.
“From ’95 starting out in the Open qualifiers as an amateur to hoist the Claret Jug would be a phenomenal story and would make today feel like it was pre-written.”
Rose has achieved a stunning level of consistency over the last few months – 17 top 10 finishes out of 22 events, including four wins.
“Statistically I’m going into it with a great shot, for sure,” he admitted.
“I feel like I’m 100% prepared and ready. I gave myself a shot at the US Open a month ago. There were a few things that happened on the weekend that I could have done better, which I’ve learned from.
“You’re always tweaking and learning. I feel confident but you can’t predict what will happen.”
Club captain George Anderson presented Rose with his honorary membership.
He said: “All of us wish you well in the coming week.”