LONDON (Reuters) - With his newly acquired status of world number one, Justin Rose will carry the extra burden of being the man the U.S. will target at next week’s Ryder Cup on the outskirts of Paris.
Jim Furyk’s men know taking down the 38-year-old Rose will offer an extra bounty, rather than just a single point.
Victory over the Europeans’ top dog would inject confidence throughout the American team while at the same time testing the resolve of a European lineup boasting five rookies and a couple of captain’s picks struggling for form.
There will, then, be more pressure on Rose than in any of his previous four Ryder Cup appearances.
The evidence of his career suggests the unflappable Englishman will not wilt in the heat of battle.
At the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion he went into the final round with a two-shot deficit and emerged to take his first major title by two strokes.
In his previous Ryder Cups he has bagged 12 points for the Europeans, including three on his debut in 2008 when he beat home talisman Phil Mickelson in the Sunday singles at Valhalla, albeit eventually ending on the losing side.
And never was Rose’s resolve displayed more vividly than at this year’s British Open in Carnoustie where, having holed the birdie putt he needed just to make the cut on the 18th hole of his second round, he ended up in a tie for second.
Rose had finished inside the top 20 of every major this year and has been impressive on the PGA Tour, winning the Fort Worth Invitational and losing a playoff to Keegan Bradley at the BMW Championship this month — a result that elevated him to the top of the world rankings for the first time.
This weekend he could strike an early psychological blow for Europe by winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta and finishing top of the FedEx Cup list.
His form will be reassuring to Europe’s captain Thomas Bjorn who faces a daunting task trying to win back the trophy against an American team laden with major winners.
The Dane is unconcerned that Rose might have emptied the tank before even reaching Paris.
“Emotionally they go through a lot of things and when you get to world number one, you have got to look after yourself and keep pushing through the next few weeks,” Bjorn told the Ryder Cup website.
“And Justin’s a full-out professional and you can be very sure that he is capable of doing that.
“You’ve got to take all the positives from one of your players going to world number one.”
Europe’s 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie also believes Rose has taken it “up a notch” and says he will thrive with the added responsibility of being Europe’s top-ranked player.
“Some might think it could put a wee bit more pressure on him, but you only have to look at his history to dismiss this notion,” Montgomerie told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“Justin is proof that nice guys can come first, but believe it - there is steel in his competitive psyche. And the great strength of his game is that he has no weaknesses.”
Montgomerie, whose team won narrowly at Celtic Manor in 2010, believes Rose and Rory McIlroy, who is also used to being a prized scalp, will need to score heavily for Europe to win.
“I actually believe the match might come down to the displays of Justin and Bjorn’s other main man, Rory McIlroy. If McIlroy and Rose can get four points out of five each, I think Europe will win. They are that important.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson