Originally created 07/21/98

A Rose blooms in English soil



LONDON -- All Justin Rose wanted to do was get a haircut and relax at his parent's Hampshire home.

The 17-year-old didn't stand a chance.

The phone calls kept coming Monday -- from well-wishers, the media and potential sponsors. Even Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, offered her congratulations.

"Justin is extremely focused at such a young age," she said. "I think he and Tiger (Woods) could become great friends -- or adversaries."

Rose's picture is splashed across newspapers. "Just Magic," ran the headline in the Sun under a photo of Rose with his arms outstretched in triumph after his astounding chip on the 18th at Royal Birkdale.

In Britain, at least, British Open winner Mark O'Meara was an afterthought compared to Rose, who tied for fourth place and then announced he was turning pro.

Rose's first tournament as a professional will be the Dutch Open starting Thursday, just four days after playing his last shot as an amateur -- a 45-yard chip-in for birdie on the 18th.

"What a way to finish," Rose said. "The whole week has been unbelievable and that was just one of sport's magic moments."

His 1-under 69 in the last round gave him a 2-over 282 -- two shots behind O'Meara, who won in a playoff against Brian Watts, and one behind Woods.

It was the best finish by an amateur at the British Open since 1953 when Frank Stranahan tied for second behind Ben Hogan.

Now, the British bookmakers Ladbrokes on Monday listed odds of 14-1 for Rose to win the British Open by 2003.

Rose, who lists England's 18-year-old World Cup soccer star Michael Owen among his sports heroes, is a money machine waiting to get rolling.

The Daily Express reported that during the British Open Rose used Cobra clubs, a Titleist ball, Reebok clothes and Footjoy shoes. But all were on loan and did not carry sponsorship payments.

His amateur status prevented him from claiming $115,000 in prize money Sunday, but he is said to be well on his way to earning his first million.

The Evening Standard reported that Rose already had signed with Scottish-based management company Carnegie Sports International and agreed to a $526,000 deal with a club manufacturer.

The BBC reported about 6 million people watched the British Open finish and 7 million watched overall on Sunday, well above last year's audience of 3.6 million for the final day.

Rose, who started swinging a club at 11 months, had a handicap of 5 by the time he was 12 and had reduced his handicap to plus-1 by 14. He left school last year to play full time.

Sir Michael Bonallack, secretary of the Royal and Ancient Club and Britain's most successful amateur, likened Rose to Tom Morris, who won the event at 17 in 1868. He won the title the next three years before he died suddenly.

"We've had nobody quite as good as this at such a age since young Tom Morris over a century ago," Bonallack said. "My advice to Justin would be to try to keep the same demeanor. He has a wonderful attitude to the game and appears able to switch his concentration on and off between shots."

Woods, who turned pro two years ago at 20, was impressed by golf's latest prodigy.

"I know it would have been very difficult for me to turn pro at that age because my game wasn't ready for it," he said. "The key for him right now is to be consistent because the media and the press are going to build him up to be something pretty big."