Rosey outlook at AT&T National
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Justin Rose owns a convincing 54-hole lead at a PGA Tour event in hopes of claiming his second victory in the past month.
No, you didn't click on an outdated link, nor did I forget to write this for a week.
That sense of déjà vu you're feeling isn't without reason. For the second straight tournament, Rose finds himself atop the leaderboard entering the final round, this time leading the AT&T National by four strokes.
One week ago at this point, the 29-year-old from England held a three-shot advantage at the Travelers Championship before playing the back-nine like a bumbling World Cup goalkeeper, letting one slip through his hands thanks to a 5-over 75 that left him in a share of ninth place when it was all said and done.
"Hartford felt like a long, long week, just starting the way I did, getting out of the blocks quickly," said Rose, who led or shared the lead after each of the first three rounds at TPC River Highlands. "Playing with a lead, it's the first time I've done that for a long, long time, so I faced some different emotions."
Any disappointment Rose endured from last week's finish was allayed by the fact that he had triumphed for the first time on the PGA Tour in his previous start three weeks earlier. A member of the U.S.-based circuit since 2004, he had finished in the top-three on eight separate occasions before breaking through for a win at the Memorial Tournament.
Despite having won the European Tour's Order of Merit three years ago and being a part of the 2008 Ryder Cup team, that victory at Jack Nicklaus' event could be considered a career-changer.
It's kept him from having to answer those "What if?" questions this week in regard to whether he could claim his first career title.
AT&T National Leaderboard
1. Rose (-10)
T-2. Pettersson (-6)
T-2. Wi (-6)
4. Overton (-5)
T-5. Moore (-4)
T-5. Day (-4)
"I felt like [after] the Memorial, I didn't go into Hartford thinking, 'You just won; keep it going,'" Rose said. "And I didn't come into this week thinking, 'You've just blown a win.' I'm just coming into each week seeing it as a new challenge and starting from Hole 1 of the tournament. Do you know what I mean by that? I'm not really carrying anything over. Although I'm on a great run, I'm not carrying that run with me mentally week to week. I'm quite into the challenge of each individual week at the moment, which is a nice mindset."
He may not be carrying that weight from one tournament to the next, but even Rose's caddie, Mark Fulcher, understands the importance of that first win to his man's psyche right now.
"Had we not won Memorial and then we shot 75, it would have been a completely different perspective," Fulcher said. "If you're going to play any sport, anywhere, you can't accept the good times and then not accept that there are going to be bad times, too. It would have been so easy to dwell on that 75, but no more than to dwell on that [final-round] 66 at Memorial. You move on and keep going.
"The reality is, we all talk about monkeys off people's backs, and it was a huge monkey off his back. He's a golfer that's full of potential. He's won seven times around the world, but there's no doubt if you're going to be a golfer, the greatest place to win is the PGA Tour."
That victory has obviously spawned greater confidence for Rose in his own abilities. He has now held the lead after five of the past seven rounds contested on tour. On Saturday, his 3-under 67 included just a single misstep on No. 14 -- his first bogey in 34 holes -- as the automobile connoisseur never let off the gas pedal, increasing his lead by three strokes.
Count playing partner Jason Day among those who has been impressed by the recent run.
"I think he just knows how to do it now," said Day, who shot a third-round 72 and will enter the final round in a share of fifth place. "Obviously he had a little bit of a stumble last week, but I think you're going to have those weeks. But the more times you put yourself in conditions like this, the more times he's going to win. He's been out here for a while now. But he's going to be a very strong player to beat in the coming years."
Will Rose suffer a repeat performance of last week's final-round defeat at the Travelers? Ask him and he'll say comparing the two is like apples and oranges.
"You know what? My game actually wasn't that good at Hartford, believe it or not," he said. "I feel like I'm a lot more comfortable with a lot more aspects of my game this week."
Whether he wins Sunday or fails to convert once again, either way there will be further pangs of déjà vu here at the AT&T National.
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.
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