PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP)Justin Rose and Joaquin Niemann are at different stages of their careers and their achievements in golf are nothing alike.
Their words, while not verbatim and lacking context, felt familiar.
They were spoken nearly a year apart, inspired by the joy of winning on the PGA Tour at a course steeped in so much history it adds to the occasion.
”Winning a PGA Tour event, getting a trophy, having Tiger there, all the history behind it, there’s nothing that can compete with this,” Niemann said last year at Riviera, moments after he won the Genesis Invitational and posed with tournament host Tiger Woods.
Niemann was 23. It was his second win, moving him to No. 20 in the world. He had shared private conversations earlier in the week about the temptation of Saudi-funded LIV Golf, still more rumor than reality at the time, and the Chilean was leaning that way until he won and spoke so passionately about his desire to beat the best in the world.
Six months later, the lure of guaranteed riches trumped winning at Riviera. Niemann was among the last batch of players to move over to LIV.
”I’ve been one of the players that’s very fortunate to have done very well at the game of golf,” Rose said Monday after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Rose is 42. He had gone four years since his last victory anywhere in the world. He was not a consideration for Europe’s last Ryder Cup team in 2021. His back began to bother him last year. The former U.S. Open champion seemed an ideal candidate for LIV.
He looked into it but went no further. He said he cared more about majors – that starts with playing in them – and he felt the PGA Tour offered the best path.
”So moments like I’ve just had … I made the decision based upon blind faith,” Rose said. ”Hope to win. Hope to put myself in the situation. My game hasn’t produced many of those opportunities of late. But still have had that belief that it’s possible.
”So to be in the situation on the 18th green at a place like Pebble, holding a trophy, that’s what it’s for.”
There are few places more inspiring than Pebble Beach, especially when the sun is so bright it makes the surf look teal, when that felicitous meeting of emerald turf and blue Pacific is separated by the white splash of waves crashing against the rocks along the 18th hole.
Rose looked around when he finished off his 65-66 weekend for his first win in four years and exclaimed, ”What a place to win a tournament.”
That doesn’t mean he will never change his mind, though Rose didn’t sound the part. He has a clear idea of where he wants to go.
And it doesn’t involve guaranteed money.
”Not as important as winning a major or two, for sure,” Rose said. ”But you’ve got to be in it to win it. I think that’s just it. Giving up on that opportunity is what you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, `Is that something that’s worth it for me?”’
To have left the PGA Tour likely would have meant playing only the U.S. Open. His 10-year exemption from winning in 2013 at Merion expires this year.
Rose is closing in on $60 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour, and it has been a remarkable ride. He challenged for the claret jug at Royal Birkdale as a 17-year-old amateur and then missed 20 straight cuts to start his pro career.
What stands out from his 23 titles around the world is having trophies from the six main tours in golf – PGA Tour, Europe, Japan, Asia, South Africa and Australia.
He rates alongside two close mates also born in 1980, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia. Rose has only the one major, his U.S. Open at Merion, but he lost in a playoff at the Masters to Garcia and played in the final group at Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open.
Rose has been eligible for every major dating to St. Andrews in 2010, a streak that was at risk until he won at Pebble Beach. His world ranking was at its lowest point 12 years. That’s the blind faith to which he spoke.
The victory moved him from No. 71 to No. 35. He has reached No. 1 on five occasions, never longer than two months. That’s not as important as it once was to him.
”I feel like I’ve achieved enough in the game where I don’t strive for being back to No. 1 in the world. My only goal is to really play well enough where I feel like I can win majors,” Rose said. ”Obviously, rule No. 1, you got to be in them. So moments like this are very important because it gets me back in those tournaments.
”Two, I just want to keep working on my game to the level where I feel like if I have a good week and I play well, I’ve got a chance to win a major,” he said. ”That’s what I feel my forte is going to be all about. I feel like I pretty much ticked most other boxes.”
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