AVONDALE, La. (AP) — It sounds like Justin Rose believes he’s had a breakthrough in the Big Easy.
The Pete Dye-designed TPC Louisiana doesn’t have a layout that would seem to suit Rose’s strengths. The Englishman also wasn’t accustomed to contending in tournaments that require gunning for birdies on nearly every hole, knowing that the leaders would be close to 20 under par by the end.
Yet, Rose pushed himself to swing aggressively and trust his initial reads on the greens. His approach produced 66 consecutive holes of bogey-free golf and some clutch birdies down the stretch to give him his first victory of 2015 at the Zurich Classic on Sunday.
“This is not in my wheelhouse,” Rose said of New Orleans’ PGA Tour stop, noting that his best results tend to come at tough courses requiring a cautious approach, where 10 under is a good final score. “You want to become a player that can win on every type of course, and I will take a lot of confidence from the fact that I was able to play a golf course that was, you know, you had to be very aggressive and shoot low and keep shooting low.”
Rose completed a 7-under 65 in the rain-delayed third round Sunday morning and closed with a 66 in the afternoon for his seventh PGA Tour title, holding off a late charge by Cameron Tringale, who finished just one shot back.
Rose’s four-round, 22-under 266 set a record on the course southwest of New Orleans that has hosted the city’s PGA Tour stop 10 times since 2005.
He has now won at least once in six straight seasons, the second-longest streak on the tour behind Dustin Johnson’s eight straight. He’s projected to jump from ninth to sixth in the world ranking.
His victory also validated the confidence he carried from the sudden and dramatic improvement in his game two weeks earlier at the Masters, where his second-place tie stood in stark contrast to mostly dismal results this year.
“Earlier this year, it looked impossible to win,” Rose said, referring to his three missed cuts and failure to finish better than 37th in five tournaments this year before he arrived at Augusta National. “I’m very happy to have turned my game around.”
Rose’s final two putts from 10 and 13 1/2 feet allowed him to hold off Tringale, who birdied the 18th for a 65.
“I’m just proud of the way I hung in there,” said Tringale, who was looking to become the eighth first-time winner in the last 11 years in New Orleans. “I did a lot of things well this week and I’m going to take a lot of positives moving forward.”
Boo Weekley, who led after the first round, finished third at 20 under. Jim Herman and Jason Day, ranked sixth in the world, tied for fourth at 19 under.
Rose began the final round tied with Day for the lead at 16 under. But Day, who had to finish most of his third round Sunday morning, hooked his drive on the par-5 second hole into trees lining the left boundary. His next shot smacked squarely off a tree and bounced right back to him.
He wound up with a bogey on a hole he’d birdied in first and third rounds. On 13, he left a 70-yard approach shot short of the green. He said hot, steamy conditions Sunday wore him down over the course of 32 holes.
“I played great all week,” Day said. “But this final round just had a lot of mental errors.”
Rose made birdie putts beyond 10 feet on the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth to improve to 19 under. That was good for the lead until Tringale, several holes behind, birdied the sixth, chipped in for eagle on the seventh and birdied the eighth to reach 20 under.
The course, carved out of a cypress swamp, was water-logged from rain that had fallen much of the past month, including heavy downpours that delayed parts of the second and third rounds. As players walked, their steps sounded like water being squeezed from a sponge.
With the top of the leaderboard tightly packed as Rose stepped to the par-3 17th, he boldly aimed for the pin, which was placed on the left side of the green near a water hazard. His 5-iron was true from about 210 yards, and he rolled in a birdie putt of about 10 feet.
“It would have been easy to hit it 20, 30 feet right of that pin,” Rose said.
But Rose knew the easy choice might not cut it in the Crescent City. So he went for it, and won.
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