In his own mind, Justin Rose has won the Open Championship thousands of times – but this week he hopes to finally do it for real.
The Hampshire ace enters the tournament as the bookies’ favourite and arguably the most in-form golfer on the planet, having triumphed in his last two events.
Rose won the first major title of his career last year, at the US Open, but he admits nothing would compare to lifting the famous Claret Jug on home soil.
“This is probably the one I’ve dreamed about the most,” said Rose, who tees off at 2.27pm in his first round at Royal Liverpool tomorrow.
“I think when you’re chasing major championships, any of them will do. But if you’re lucky enough to win this one, I think it would be incredibly special.”
Rose tuned up for this week’s event in the best possible fashion, with victory in the Scottish Open, at Royal Aberdeen, last week. That followed his win in the Quicken Loans National, in Maryland.
Rose hopes the experience of competitive links golf in Scotland will help his chances of improving on his Open record, with his famous tied-fourth effort as an amateur at Birkdale in 1998 remaining his best showing in the tournament.
“My Open record is not particularly good if you look at it on paper,” said Rose, who could become world number one this week.
“That would suggest that there definitely needs to be a change of mindset.
“That happened for me last week. I played the Scottish Open to get more familiar with links golf.
“I’ve come into this tournament the last few years playing links golf, but doing it by myself, trying to find different venues to get the feel of it.
“But I really felt like it was important to get the scorecard in my hand last week, and do it under somewhat meaningful conditions.
“I’ve got my eye on improving in this championship. But, at the same time, I don’t feel like my Open record is as bad as the black and white suggests.
“I’ve created a couple of opportunities, but haven’t been able to put it all together. I hope, being more experienced, that will be the case.”
Rose did not qualify for the Open the last time it was held at Hoylake, in 2006, and has never played the course before.
But he does not believe that will be a huge disadvantage.
“I think it’s a very, very fair test,” said the 33-year-old. “It offers everybody the opportunity to play well.
“The fairways are relatively flat. The greens are relatively flat, yet the trouble is there, the rough is relatively thick, but nothing is extreme. So I think it offers shot-making.
“It offers something for everybody. Just the guy who goes out there and plays great golf this week is going to win.”