Whatever derailed Justin Rose’s game appears long gone now.
Sensing he needed to birdie the final two holes to keep the lead, Rose pulled it off with aggressive swings and clutch putts for a one-stroke victory over Cameron Tringale on Sunday in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
“Earlier this year it looked impossible to win,” Rose said, referring to his three missed cuts and failure to finish better than 37th in his first five starts of 2015. “I’m very happy to have turned my game around.”
He finished at 22-under 266, a record total on the course southwest of New Orleans that has hosted the city’s PGA TOUR stop 10 times since 2005.
The Englishman has won at least once in six straight seasons, the second-longest streak on the tour behind Dustin Johnson’s eight straight. He moved from 82nd to 15th in the FedExCup standings.
Rose said his drastic improvement two weeks earlier at the Masters, where he tied for second, helped him in the Big Easy.
“I took my Masters performance with a huge amount of confidence,” Rose said, recalling in particular the sense of calm he was able to maintain down the stretch at Augusta National.
Playing aggressively on the soggy TPC Louisiana, Rose made six birdies in the final round and played the last 66 holes without a bogey.
Rose’s final two putts from 10 and 13 1/2 feet allowed him to hold off Tringale, who birdied the 18th for a 65.
“I’m pleased,” said Tringale, who was looking to become the eighth first-time winner in the last 11 years in New Orleans. “To finish one back is still a pretty good week.”
Boo Weekley, who led after the first round, finished third at 20 under, and Jim Herman and Jason Day, ranked sixth in the world, tied for fourth at 19 under.
With the top of the leaderboard tightly packed as Rose stepped to the par-3 17th, he showed no interest in playing it safe, even though the pin was placed to the left side of the green, near a bulkhead dropping down into a water hazard from which alligators looked on. Rose took out his 5-iron and belted a 210-yarder straight toward the pin, landing about 10 feet behind the hole, setting up his clutch birdie putt.
“It would have been easy to hit it 20, 30 feet right of that pin, but I kind of knew that — because I was three or four holes ahead of some of the other guys in contention — I knew they had birdie opportunities.”
On the par-5 18th, with water to the right, Rose unloaded a 295-yard drive down the middle, then smacked a 3-wood 243 yards just left of the green and chipped over a sand trap to set up what would be his winning putt.
Rose played bogey-free golf over his last 66 holes — including 30 on Sunday — en route to a final round 66 and a course-record 266 (22-under), good for his seventh victory on the PGA TOUR.
After climbing to 15th in the FedExCup, he heads to next week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco and THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, on May 7-10 with momentum and feeling good about his game.
“This is a great shot in the arm of confidence and I just got to keep it going,” said Rose, currently the ninth-ranked player in the world. “It obviously gets me up there in everything I want to be up there in; a boost in the (Official Golf) World Ranking, a boost in the FedExCup, a huge boost in confidence.
“Now I can target the major championships all the way through the summer without having to chase anything in between. It’s going to be great.”