JUSTIN Rose has backed plans to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for 12 months – even though the winner of the Gold Medal in Rio four years ago won’t be guaranteed a trip to Japan in 2021.
This summer’s Olympic Golf tournament was due to be held at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, whose East Course had been updated by Fazio Design, from July 30-August 2.
But the Internatinal Olympic Committee announced yesterday (Thursday) it was postponing the 2020 Games after weeks of speculation about whether they would go ahead in Japan, in late July and early August.
Rose, who beat Henrik Stenson (silver) and Matt Kuchar (bronze) to take golf’s Gold in Rio de Janeiro, needs to be in the top 15 of the world to automatically qualify for a place on the plane to the Far East.
The 2013 US Open winner agreed the current situation across the world with the coronavirus crisis was creating an unlevel playing field in certain sports, especially athletics.
Rose, a member at North Hants Golf Club, said: “Some countries were in total lockdown. In other countries, athletes were able to train as normal.
“With golf, your whole calendar is very focused on one week, to the next week, to the next week.
“Whereas in many sports, especially track and field, it’s a two-year process trying to gear into the Olympics, so I have a lot more sympathy for some of those athletes.
“The Olympics has been a huge gift in my career. It’s something that I’ve been so proud of and it was so fun to be a part of.
“The opportunity to win another one would be huge.
“It’s something that’s really resonated with golf fans. I’ve been announced on the first tee for the best part of four years as Olympic champion and it definitely warms the insides every time I hear it.”
Rose has slipped from first to 14th in the world rankings over the last year, missing three of his last four cuts.
The player crowned European No. 1 in 2007, before moving the USA, has been without a top-three finish since last June’s US Open – six years after he famously won his first Major at Merion, on Father’s Day.
Rose is staying at his home in the Bahamas during the current PGA Tour shut down.
He has been working on his game and hopes golf can be one of the first sports to return when the COVID-19 threat is quelled enough.
Justin added: “I wasn’t playing particularly well when things got called off.
“There were certainly areas of my game which need some attention, and I’m also viewing it as an opportunity to work on my fitness and try to make some gains.
“I want to be tournament ready when we do get back to playing.
“I’m lucky to have a simulator and a putting green in my garage, so I can work on some of the technical side of the game but nothing simulates actually playing golf.
“We have a huge advantage being an outdoor sport and in terms of close proximity, you have your caddie but that’s a personal relationship that you can control.
“Obviously if you’re playing a contact sport, you don’t have a lot of control over what the other guys do.
“The world needs it, especially if there are lots of people still stuck at home having to isolate.
“A bit of sport would be a good thing, and if golf was the first sport back, it would create a bit of a buzz and maybe find a new audience.”
Race to qualify for Tokyo suspended
GOLF returned to the Olympics in Brazil four years ago after an absence of 112 years – and the race to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics was about to hot up until the COVID-19 crisis put all golf tournaments on lockdown.
Rose, who has been World No. 1 for a total of 13 weeks during his career, would currently qualify to play alongside Tommy Fleetwood if the qualifying period had ended this week.
Justin was ranked in 14th place when the Official World Golf Rankings were suspended on March 20 –because of the shutdown of the two biggest tours in the world – the PGA and European Tours – while Fleetwood is in 10th spot.
Buckinghamshie’s Tyrrell Hatton – who claimed his maiden PGA Tour win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the last event to be completed in the USA before the coronavirus crisis cancelled all golf in America – was in 21st place when the freeze was announced a week ago.
Up to four players from the same country can compete in the Tokyo Games in 2021 – providing they are in the world’s top 15 at the end of the qualifying period.
Surrey’s Paul Casey, who grew up playing against Rose as a junior in county matches in the mid 1990s – they have also played as a pairing for England in Golf’s World Cup – is the next highest ranked Englishman in 24th place.
Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick, a place further back in the OWGR, will be harbouring ambitions for the Tokyo Olympics now that he has another 12 months or more to qualify for the England team.
For 42-year-old Casey and Rose – who turns 40 in July – it realistically represents their last chance at Olympic glory, with the likes of Fleetwood, Hatton and Fitzpatrick – all in their 20s – having time on their side.
Proud mum and wife watched Rose win in Rio
JUSTIN Rose’s mum admitted it was hard to believe her son had been crowned an Olympic champion after watching his triumph in Rio four years ago.
Annie Rose, who still lives in Hook, where Justin was raised. admitted she found it hard to believe it was her son that had claimed golf’s first Gold Medal at the Olympic Games for 112 years, in July 2016.
Rose’s mother and his wife Kate watched every shot of the former Hampshire junior’s nerve-jangling battle with Henrik Stenson before his one-shot victory in Rio was secured on the 72nd hole.
The moment was made extra special when the Roses learned that Sunday had been Father’s Day in Brazil.
Rose’s father Ken, who died from leukaemia in 2002, spent so much time by his son’s side during his rapid rise from playing junior golf at Hartley Wintney, Tylney Park and North Hants, to finishing fourth in the 1998 Open as an amateur.
It was also Father’s Day in the United States when Rose won the 2013 US Open, at Merion – when Justin pointed to the sky in Ken’s memory after holding the winning putt in Pennsylvania.
Proud mum Annie said: “That was so good and to see my son out there.
“He worked so hard on his golf ever since he was little and to see him playing in an Olympics was enough as it was – and then to actually top it off with the gold…
“When I was a little girl growing up, who would ever have thought I would have a child who was a gold medallist? That actually puts it into perspective.
“Justin absolutely loved being here, Kate has, we all have and really embraced it. It’s wonderful that you can play for your country like this.”
The Rose family will now be hoping to be watching Justin again at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Olympic will become golf’s pinnacle says wife
ROSE’S wife Kate is an ex-gymnast, who competed for Britain at international level in acrobatic gymnastics, which was not an event at the Rio Games – and will not be at the Tokyo Olympics.
Kate, who lives with Justin in the Bahamas as well as having a home by the River Thames, in Putney, said: “I grew up watching the Olympics and that was the pinnacle of my sport.
“Obviously a lot of golfers didn’t have that so maybe it was a little slower for some of the golfers.
“But I think certainly the next generation will probably grow up thinking of the Olympics as a pinnacle of golf.
“I think anyone that has been here will also now view the Olympics very differently,” added Kate, mum to Leo and Charlotte, who has recently started playing golf with her older brother.
“Golf in the Olympics is a very special experience and one that I hope will get to continue, even beyond Tokyo.”