Justin Rose sees uniqueness in the PGA Championship because, well, it doesn’t have a specific identity.
Unlike the Masters and its green jacket, the U.S. Open and its “toughest test in golf” character, and the British Open with its links-style golf and often inclement weather, the PGA doesn’t stand out in individuality.
It is, of course, a major title, and one that Rose — and every other golfer in the 156-man field — covets.
“I’ve always felt that the PGA Championship is the championship that probably doesn’t have an identity in terms of a style of golf,” said Rose, who owns one major, the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and a third, fourth and ninth in his 16 previous PGAs. “You know, I feel like it’s dependent on the golf course. It’s dependent on the time of year. And it doesn’t try to sort of fit in any particular category.
“Even par doesn’t mean anything necessarily at a PGA Championship. You get what the course gives you. And I think we’ve all respected that, to be honest with you.”
Still, there is a taste of the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black this week. The public course has hosted two of those, won by Tiger Woods in 2002 and Lucas Glover in 2009. The rough is going to be deep and, if the rain that plagued Long Island for nearly a week returns — it was dry and sunny Wednesday — this monster of a course will play even longer than its 7,459 yards.
“I think this one in particular, this one, if I was to bring — I don’t want to bring in the word U.S. Open — but the golf course has more of that feel to it this week, I would say. And if it was a U.S. Open, you would say, ‘Wow, this is a really fair test of golf.’
“So I think from that point of view, it’s going to be fun for the players. I think we all regard this test and this setup as incredibly fair but demanding. And it’s probably … one of the most demanding PGA Championship setups and venues that I’ve seen in those 17 years.”
The 2016 Olympic gold medalist , Rose, 38, has been a mainstay on the European Ryder Cup team, making five appearances. He is usually near the top of the leaderboard in the most pressure-packed events on the PGA Tour and is the current FedEx Cup champion.
So big-time challenges are more routine for Rose than for most athletes.
Yet he has just the one major among his 10 PGA Tour victories.
“I think the pressure of trying to win a second is far less than the pressure of trying to win your first,” he said. “From that point of view I haven’t given it a second thought. Obviously I want to win more; I’ve been close on a couple of occasions; lost in a playoff there at Augusta (to Sergio Garcia in 2017 ). So a putt here, a putt there, a chip here, a chip there, I could have added a second to it.
“And yeah, I feel like I’m still waiting for my run in the majors. I’m still waiting for a hot run where I can hopefully get an opportunity to put two, three, four away quite quickly.”
That’s territory few golfers ever reach. Sure, Tiger Woods is way up there with 15 majors, and defending PGA champ Brooks Koepka has won three in the last two years. They are favorites this week, and Rose feels he should be in that category, too, among what he estimates as 30 players with a true shot to leave with the Wanamaker Trophy.
“You know, I feel like the style of golf does suit me generally, so I’m still working hard,” Rose said. “There’s still a lot of focus for me. I try to build my whole year around trying to play well and peak in the majors. I still feel at this point in my career, yeah, second major, and then obviously on from there will kind of define my career from that point of view. I’ve done a lot of other really cool things, obviously, alongside my major championship win, but more majors equal a better career, there’s no doubt.”