The Sweet Swing of Justin Rose
An Interview with David Leadbetter
I started working with Justin Rose in the winter of 1997 when
he and his dad, who had taught him the game, came over to Lake
Nona. Even at 16, he had a tremendous amount of talent. He won
a number of amateur events and was a Walker Cup player. Then he
had that exceptional finish at the British Open in 1998, finishing
fourth as an amateur!
He’s a very intelligent young guy, a hard worker with a
good temperament. I think he struggled when he first turned pro.
When you look back you would say that he probably turned professional
too young—he was thrown in the deep end. He really got off
to a bad start, missing a bunch of cuts. It was unfortunate because
for a young player, I think he was badly managed. He was playing
every week and he didn’t even have time to enjoy his great
finish at the Open because he turned pro the next week.
And so he went through some hard times, but I think it actually
made him mentally tougher—he realized how tough it was going
to be. He started working a lot harder, started working out and
working on his mind. We obviously worked very hard on his swing.
I think Justin is going to be a really great young player. He’s
won a couple of tournaments in Europe and I think playing in America
is going to help him. I think American courses will actually suit
his game more than European courses.
He’s a fairly tall, wiry lad and he has gotten stronger
in the last couple of years. He’s developed a lot of strength
in his legs and his shoulders have gotten broader. In the early
days, he was just tall and lanky and had a lot of wasted motion.
As typical with many young players, he had a big leg slide, the
club was a little bit too long going back, and he sort of had
to hang back on the ball through impact. We started to implement
changes just to make his swing more solid. For instance, we really
focused on a shorter, more compact swing so the club was more
on plane and he was able to use the bigger muscles instead of
driving the legs and using a lot of hands.
We do a lot of different drills—bread and butter drills.
A lot of his tendencies and his problems have been in the early
stages of the swing. So we have one drill where he starts about
halfway back, stops, checks the position, and then actually hits
the ball from there. If he gets into a good position halfway back,
he can then just focus on really turning to complete the swing.
It allows him to simplify everything.
He had already developed a swing when he came to Lake Nona. I
was very conscience of the fact that he was playing tournaments
so I wasn’t going to do a Nick Faldo, where we totally revamped
everything and it took a couple of years. We had to do it in stages.
Even up to a year ago he had these habits that really sort of
stuck with him. Tall players have a tendency to take the club
inside too much on the backswing, get the club across the line
at the top. This winter, he made a real commitment. He really
worked hard, worked on his swing, worked on his fitness and he
came out swinging well. I expect him to have a good year.
His golf swing has certainly tightened up a lot. He is a good
striker of the ball and is in good balance. He’s a very
good long iron player. Some of that has got to do with height.
Generally speaking, taller players have the advantage with the
long irons because of their arch width and the height of their
plane. He is also a great wedge player too—those are two
good aspects that stand out with Justin—and he hits the
ball long, which is a big necessity these days.
him to break through, I think it’s a combination of a lot
of little things. His putting has been a little inconsistent.
He has been working hard on his short game and it is really tightening
up in a lot of areas. When you look at statistics these days,
some of them are a little bit tough to read, especially if you
look at a player like Vijay Singh who was #1 last year and only
hit just over half the fairways. But length is a factor and as
I said, Justin is long. If he could hit 60-65% of the fairways,
that’s great. But it’s really a matter of getting
him to be controlled in his play, just sharpening his short game.
I think if he can do that, he can make a big breakthrough. I fully
expect him to win a tournament this year. I mean, he’s definitely
got the quality to be a top ten player in the world, no question
He is a really good kid. He has a great personality, great smile,
and he’s really good with the public—we had to show
him in the early stages of his career that you can’t stop
and sign autographs forever. Now he is over here with his brother
and girlfriend, which I know will boost his confidence. It’s
not that I’ve adopted him, but we’re very close, and
I expect great things from him in the years to come.