As he walked away from the 10th hole at the WGC-Champions in Shanghai on Sunday, Justin Rose got a little pep talk from his long-serving caddie. “You’re not out of yet” – or words to that effect – was Mark Fulcher’s message.
Rose was still six shots behind world No1 Dustin Johnson, the runaway overnight leader, and at that stage would only have been thinking about playing the remaining eight holes as well as he could and perhaps amassing some Ryder Cup points.
But with the tournament in his hands, Johnson was about to let it slip away at Sheshan International just as Greg Norman did at Augusta to the benefit of Nick Faldo in his notorious collapse at the 1996 Masters.
And while Johnson was not playing well at all, Rose was rediscovering his magnificent best on his way to a 67, the joint lowest round of the day, that would earn him a two-shot win.
Rose’s standout moment was his sublime tee-shot at the par-three 17, a glorious iron to within two feet. That Henrik Stenson, who was tied with Rose until that point, found a hazard tells you how hard that hole is.
When you get to tough courses, the best players tend to play better. Rose has always been a wonderful striker of the ball, a very accomplished player with a solid swing.
The Englishman’s victory maintained his run of winning a title every year since 2010 and he will be delighted at that.
It could yet have even greater significance. Sitting just over 1m points behind leader Tommy Fleetwood with three events remaining, he is now a definite contender for the Race To Dubai.
Both men are due to play this week in Turkey, where Rose will need no reminding that he won in 2012. If he makes it back-to-back wins, as Tyrrell Hatton did earlier this month, and Fleetwood has a bad week, then his second European order of merit crown could be on.
It remains in Fleetwood’s hands if he performs, and he has an extra tournament to take it away, having signed up for the Nedbank Golf Challenge next week, but Rose’s win has made it more exciting.
England and Spain have been locked in a battle for supremacy on the European Tour, with players from the two countries currently occupying the first seven places in the Race To Dubai.
But just as their footballing counterparts did in the Under-17 World Cup final on Saturday – one of the best games I have ever seen – the English have got the upper hand on the Spanish, with Rose’s win responding to Sergio Garcia’s triumph on home soil last week and making it nine titles to seven.
If there is anything to take from this it is that players inspire each other. Success breeds success and the Spanish in particular are a close-knit and amazing bunch of people.
As for Johnson, it’s not the first time that he has suffered a spectacular collapse.
Rounds like his 82 when leading the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach never leave you, but the great players can brush these setbacks away and hopefully he will be able to focus on better memories.
Finally, well done to Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn for great work in recruiting Paul Casey back to the European circuit, meaning he will be in contention for a place in the team in France next year.
Casey is a great potential addition, a very accomplished match-play golfer and another arrow in our quiver.