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Finally free of "scar tissue", Rose eyes win Down Under

Justin Rose of England hits out of a bunker on the 14th hole during the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, December 1 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe
Justin Rose of England hits out of a bunker on the 14th hole during the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, December 1 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Globe-trotting Briton Justin Rose will battle jetlag and local favorite Adam Scott at the Australian Open in Sydney this week as he seeks to cap his outstanding year with a win Down Under.

Rose has little left to prove after finishing second on the European Tour money's list behind Rory McIlroy but victory would help the 32-year-old forget his dreadful showing at the invitational Nedbank Golf Challenge last week.

Rose finished second to Northern Irishman McIlroy at the DP World Tour Championship two weeks ago, with a course record 62 in his final round in Dubai, but promptly fell from the sublime to the ridiculous at Sun City, where he crashed out to finish second-last in the field of 12.

"I think it was just a hiccup," the South Africa-born Rose told reporters on Wednesday. "Sometimes when you are around family, subconsciously you want to play really, really well for them.

"I think there was an element of frustration. I think it was the first week when the season caught up with me. That is natural.

"I think you are allowed to play poorly once in a while and let it be water off a duck's back."

Rose has every reason to give himself a break, having boosted his world ranking to a career-high fourth after a season boasting wins at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March and the World Golf Final in Turkey in October.

Rose, who finished seventh on the USPGA Tour money list, returns to the Australian Open a far different player from the newly-minted professional who competed for the 1998 title.

SCAR TISSUE

After finishing fourth at the British Open in 1998 as a 17-year-old amateur, Rose turned professional but missed 21 cuts in succession, including the Australian Open in Adelaide.

"There was a lot of scar tissue that built up in the early stages of my career that ultimately took a lot of time to break down and get over," Rose said.

"Only in the past two or three years do I think I have completely overcome it, truly believe in myself under pressure and believe I am one of the best players in the world."

Rose will battle good friend Scott for the title at the Lakes Golf Club, the local favorite also in solid form after edging Briton Ian Poulter to win his home Australian Masters in Melbourne last month.

World number seven Scott will be partnered with Rose in Thursday's opening round, and will bid for his second national title after winning the 2009 tournament at New South Wales Golf Club.

Scott has had a consistent season but suffered colossal disappointment with his meltdown in the final few holes to lose the British Open to Ernie Els.

That would have been his maiden major trophy, and he has been dogged with questions about his mental fortitude since.

"I am going to use this year as motivation to go the next step next year," he said. "I don't see anything getting in my way at the moment. I feel very confident with the plans I am putting in place."

Other tournament drawcards include 63-year-old, eight-times major champion Tom Watson and 14-year-old Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang, who is poised to become the youngest golfer to play the U.S. Masters after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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