Justin Rose is as curious as anyone entering the Desert Classic.
The world No. 1 is in the midst of a remarkable run of consistency – he has just one finish outside the top 25 in the past 10 months – but he admits there are plenty of unknowns as he makes his 2019 debut.
For starters, he hasn’t played much golf. He teed it up in Indonesia in mid-December and barely touched a club through the end of the year, spoiling his plan to begin the year in Maui. Believing that he needed a few tournament rounds under his belt before heading to a difficult track like Torrey Pines, Rose added the Desert Classic and its guaranteed three rounds in dome-like conditions.
“You can get a good read on your game,” he told reporters Wednesday, “and if you can play well, you get some birdies going. I just felt like it was the perfect place to start things up.”
It was also an ideal tournament to break in his new sticks.
Full-field tee times from the Desert Classic
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In one of the biggest stories of the brief offseason, Rose announced that he had switched from TaylorMade to Homna, citing a desire for more contract flexibility.
At PGA West he’s set to debut a new brand of irons and wedges, and perhaps even a new driver. An even bigger deal might be Rose’s tinkering with a new Axis1 putter. His improvement on the greens is one of the most significant reasons why Rose has vaulted to the top spot in the world rankings – he rose from 123rd to 21st in putting, year over year – but he said the technology in the Axis1 putter has piqued his interest. He’s unsure whether he’ll put the putter in play during the opening round Thursday.
“Of course there’s a few unknowns; there’s always a settling-in period with change generally,” Rose said. “Obviously I believe that I’ve made some good decisions and some good changes, and I feel confident about things. But you never quite know until the scorecard is in your hand.
“So there will be a lot of learning this week, and potentially tweaking next week. It’s just about going out and playing and getting comfortable with it.”
He’ll have to get comfortable with a new man on his bag, too, at least temporarily: Gareth Lord, the longtime looper for Henrik Stenson, will caddie for Rose while his regular bagman, Mark Fulcher, recovers from heart surgery that is expected to sideline him until at least next month.