Rose Putts ‘Lights Out’ on Back Nine
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Justin Rose: Eyes Wide Shut

Justin Rose fired a mighty impressive four-under 68 on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After posting a one-over on the front nine at Bay Hill, Rose got hot on the back and came in with a 31. He felt like he was rolling some great putts all week, but he wasn’t getting results. Until he made a change after the turn — he closed his eyes over putts inside ten feet.

“Nothing was going in the hole on the front nine, so he putted with his eyes shut on the back nine,” said Rose’s caddie Mark Fulcher.

I laughed and said, “Wait, I can’t tell if you’re kidding or not.”

“I’m serious,” said Fooch. “It’s a drill we use during practice with the Zenio system. Nothing was going in on the front and the pins were quite difficult. There was nothing to lose.”

It worked out pretty well.

Rose figured he wasn’t making anything, so why not give it a try? After all, he makes more than he misses during practice, anyway. On the first hole he tried it, the 10th, he drained an eight-footer for birdie.

“Mentally, it was a challenge to do that coming down the stretch when you’re trying to be that carefree, and just let it go,” said Rose. “The more I kind of got up the leaderboard, the more I was trying to use it as a real test and a drill, and it worked.”

Rose also rolled in a few longer putts, where he left his eyes open.

“It’s all rhythm-based really,” said Rose. “I think when I play my best the putter swings in rhythm.”

Needing only 12 putts on the last nine, Rose capped off the round by dropping a 29-foot bomb for birdie on the brutal 18th hole. With the leaders struggling, he stuck around to wait it out in the case of a playoff.

Asked if he was surprised at the carnage, he replied, laughing, “Doesn’t surprise me looking at last week for me.”

Last week at the Transitins Championship, Rose held the 54-hole lead, but he stumbled on Sunday, posting a 74 and ultimately placing T5.

Though he didn’t end up in a playoff at Bay Hill, he still got a bit of redemption. Rose finished in a tie for third, his second consecutive top-ten, and a positive boost leading into The Masters for the first major of the year.

“I feel like there’s a been a nice confidence build,” said Rose. “It gives me a lot of trust in irons, especially under pressure. I’m going to work on my short game, but I’m not trying to find my game (before Augusta).”

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)