Rose welcomes regular caddie back for latest Masters bid

Justin Rose hands a club to his caddie during practice for the Masters tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. (Reuters pic)

AUGUSTA: When Justin Rose launches his 14th bid for Masters glory this week he will be armed with expert knowledge of Augusta National’s notoriously tricky greens and something perhaps even more valuable – a good friend.

After three months apart, the newly re-minted world number one told reporters on Monday that he was pleased to be reunited with long-time caddie Mark ‘Fooch’ Fulcher, who had to take time off following heart surgery in January.

“I feel like we’ve learned together so much here, I wouldn’t expect a nugget of information I don’t know to come out during practice,” Rose said after a practice round.

He added that Fulcher’s presence would be especially valuable in the later rounds of the tournament, when emotions run high.

“It’s when the going gets tough,” Rose said. “We have so many positive experiences out there under pressure that we can draw on together.”

The 2013 US Open champion has clinched a top-10 finish on five separate occasions at The Masters.

But perhaps no single outing at Augusta National was more formative to Rose than his devastating playoff loss to Spaniard Sergio Garcia in 2017.

“I felt like that was the first major I’ve been close to and not won, really, like a heartbreaker,” Rose said. “I think I took comfort in the fact that you can’t get through a career without something like that happening.”

It was far from the only setback. Injuries to his shoulder and back nagged at Rose in 2014 and 2016, respectively, and he pulled out of an Aug 2018 World Golf Championships event citing joint tightness.

The 38-year-old Olympic gold medalist has had time to bounce back, notably netting his 10th PGA tour victory in January with a two-shot win over Adam Scott at Torrey Pines.

Rose, who took a month off in February after missing the cut at the Saudi International, is now looking to add to his trophy case with a second major win.

“I would take four, as long as it’s one of each,” Rose said. “That would be awesome. That would be enough.”