For Rose, BMW Championship came down to one moment on the 17th

September 18, 2011
Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor

LEMONT, Ill. -- Give Justin Rose credit. As he stood over his ball in front of the par-4 17th green at Cog Hill, his five-shot lead earlier in the day at the BMW Championship reduced to a single stroke, he knew the time had come.


Was he going to fritter away this tournament like he's done several other times in his career when holding the 54-hole lead? Or was he going to hit the kind of shot that champions need to produce when the pressure is at his highest?

Rose was not shying away from this moment. The tournament was in his hands. Now was the time to deliver.

"You can boil the whole day down to that moment," Rose said.

His ball was 36 feet from the pin. With no rough to navigate, he thought about using a putter. But with some encouragement from his caddie Mark Fulcher, Rose opted to go with his 54-degree wedge. Five practice swings. A step back to look at the line and visualize the shot. One more practice swing. Then the real thing.

The ball plopped just on the green and rolled straight into the pin. Birdie. Two-shot lead over John Senden.

One hole later, game over.

"It was an easy chip," Rose said. "It just needed committing to, just not wimping out. It was just lovely to have that sort of dialogue with yourself and then see it play out in your favor.

"It was just nice to have made the right decision and then executed it. That's a great lesson to learn down the stretch -- it does come down to one moment sometimes and you just need to be ready for it."

Thanks to that chip on 17, Rose has the BMW Championship in his pocket -- the third PGA TOUR win of his career -- and a trip to next week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. He also moves up to third in FedExCup points, which will allow him to control his own fate in winning the FedExCup.

Prior to Sunday, Rose had held or shared the 54-hole lead seven previous times on TOUR. Only once was he able to close the deal. On four of those occasions, he shot 74 or higher in the final round. Some of those lessons he learned were harsh.

But those lessons also proved invaluable. So were the times he wasn't in contention.

"You know, I practice closing," he said. "Every Sunday when I'm not in contention, I practice it. I practice doing the right things, practice trying to have the same mindset. I think it's very difficult just to expect to have it when you're in contention and when you're in the lead.

"I think you need to practice a strategy and a form of doing it even when you're lying 30th."

Rose was never close to lying 30th this week. After shooting one of the best rounds of his career, an 8-under 63 in Thursday's first round, Rose led or shared the lead after every round.

On Sunday, he entered with a four-shot advantage over Senden and expanded it to five on the front nine. But he wobbled a bit with a bogey at the ninth and another at the 15th. When he reached the 16th tee box, his lead was down to one shot.

Until the chip-in.

"It was a very straightforward chip shot," Senden said. "But with the circumstances, it was a very, very great shot under pressure and looked like it just went straight in the middle without even looking like it was going anywhere else."

Rose had a terrific ball-striking week, hitting 75 percent of his fairways (tied for fourth best in the field) and 70.8 percent of greens (tied for third best). He gave credit to swing coach Sean Foley for a lesson on Tuesday that "got the swing to a spot where the ball was going where I was looking."

He also gave credit to his caddie. Instead of having Fulcher give him various yardages for a shot, Rose asked Fulcher to just give him one number. Meanwhile, Rose walked around all week without a yardage book -- something he normally doesn't do at tournaments.

"The changes I made with Fooch simplified the mental side of the game and enabled me just to not get in my own way," Rose said.

And now he's on his way to East Lake for the TOUR Championship. A second straight win at East Lake and he'll be the new FedExCup champ.