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Rose blooms despite thorny start to career

Justin RoseSYDNEY, Dec 5 - Justin Rose and Adam Scott will put their friendship aside when the Emirates Australian Open tees off at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney on Thursday.

The pair are good mates off the course, but remain ultra competitive with club in hand -- and with Rose ranked fourth in the world and Scott seventh, there are more than just bragging rights at stake in the A$1.25 million OneAsia event.

"It's a great draw for me -- I regard Adam as one of my best friends out on tour," Rose said on Wednesday.

"We are both incredibly competitive, but we are also good friends. It will be a fun pairing and hopefully we will get nice crowds -- which is a really good way of lifting your game."

The last time Rose teed it up in the Australian Open was 13 years ago, just six months after turning professional and in the middle of a miserable run of 21 consecutive missed cuts.

He had become an overnight sensation after a stirring performance in the 1998 Open Championship that included an audacious chip-in for birdie on the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale which earned him joint fourth place. Sponsors were camped outside his door and tournament invitations were pouring in.

"My memory is not my strongest suit. I think this has been a good thing in my career. I tend to block it out," Rose said when asked what he remembered of that period.

"The decision to turn pro was made long before the Open Championship. I had this three-year plan. I was going to turn pro, get some experience under my belt. Go to Q-School, probably spend a year on the Challenge Tour and work my way up in the pro ranks.

"Then the Open Championship happened and I got ahead of myself and probably everybody around me got ahead of themselves. I found the adjustment very difficult."

Rose eventually did adjust, but even after winning four tournaments in 2001 he still didn't believe in himself.

"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," he said.

"If I look at it as if I was 21 years of age, I'd won four professional events, played myself into the top 50 in the world, that's pretty impressive. There's not many 21-year-olds who have done that.

"(But) I don't think I believed in myself -- how good I was -- at that time, because of what happened in '98. I still had that doubt. 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."

Scott, who won the Australian Open when it first became a OneAsia event in 2009, said the tournament meant a lot to him -- even if the focus of attention this week has been on what putter he intends to use.

"It is an important tournament for all Australians and I'd certainly like to repeat my form of 2009 and get my hands of the trophy again," he said.

Last week golf's ruling bodies announced plans to ban anchored putting strokes from 2016 -- effectively banishing the broomstick putter that Scott has used to great effect for the past two years.

"My view on the whole thing is that if they are going to make decisions like that, and they are consistent with that philosophy throughout the whole game of golf (then) I won't have a problem," he said after spending two days practicing with a shorter putter, but using a claw grip.

"I think it is a very big call that they've made and only time with tell if it is the right call for the game of golf."

Joining Rose and Scott in the morning's marquee flight is China's Liang Wenchong -- a four time winner on OneAsia including the Nanshan China Masters in October.

Title-holder Greg Chalmers, who is also defending at OneAsia's Australian PGA Championship next week, is paired with veteran Tom Watson, a winner of the Australian Open in 1984.

Joining them in the afternoon marquee flight is a young Australian whose story has some echoes of Rose.

Jake Higginbottom, 19, won the New Zealand Open as an amateur two weeks ago and immediately turned professional.