Kootch and Rose…….sounds like a new brand of a southern comfort whiskey. Instead both, in their young thirties entering the prime of their golfing careers, are rising stars in the game steadily building resumes that have put them solidly in the top ten of the World Golf Rankings.
The two burst on the golf radar screen at the same time in 1998 as pedigree Amateurs elbowing their way into the major Championships that year. They had competed against each other at the Walker Cup at Quaker Ridge the previous year and became friends when they played a practice round together at Loch Lomand the week before the 1998 Open Championship. Kootch introduced his 20 year-old telegenic smile to our TV screens with flash performances in The Masters (T21) and U.S. Open (T14) that year. Rose stunned the British golf fans as an 18 year-old holing out a dramatic wedge shot from the rough on the last hole to tie for fourth at Royal Birkdale.
But then the waiting began. As is common with young players both of them hit the pot hole laden developmental road soon after they turned pro. Kucher won the Honda Classic in 2002 but did not hoist a trophy in the winner’s circle again until Turning Stone in 2009. Justin Rose suffered the indignity of missing the cut in his first 21 pro events but broke through to win The Dunhill in 2002 and three more times on the European Tour before he won The Memorial on the PGA Tour at Jack’s Place in 2010.
The breakout year for both of them was 2010-Kootch won the Fed Ex Barclays in 2010, The Players in 2011, and finished top ten in the World Gold Championships 7 times since then including his win at the Accenture Match Play this year over Hunter Mahan.
In the majors the last three years he has been top ten 4 times with a T3 at The Masters last year. For Rose it was the Fed Ex BMW in 2011 and 4 top tens in WGC events including the Cadillac Championship at Doral in 2011. In 2012 he finished tied for eighth at The Masters and third at the PGA.
Between them they have 13 PGA and European Tour wins, 2 FedEx Cup event victories, 2 WGC wins, 5 Ryder and President Cup appearances, 5 World Cup appearances, and a Players Championship.
So what is missing……a Major. The two are at the top of that infamous list of the best players in the world yet to win a Major. But I sense the wait could be over for them over the next 24 months. Both have been in top form so far this year and I would not be surprised to see Bubba slipping that Green Jacket over the shoulders of one of the distillery brothers this April.