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After winning U.S. Open, Justin Rose trying to refocus

(MCT) PITTSFORD, N.Y. — In the month after he tapped in his final putt on Merion's 18th green at the U.S. Open, saluted his deceased father and celebrated his first major championship victory, Justin Rose spent a lot of time accepting congratulations and basking in the glow of his achievement.

But when he returned to competition at the British Open after three weeks off, mainly enjoying himself with family and friends back home in the United Kingdom, he sensed something was wrong, and it was evident after he missed the 36-hole cut at Muirfield.

"The backslapping that you get from everybody is obviously very nice, but it also in some ways can prevent you from staying fully focused on what's ahead," Rose said Wednesday on the eve of the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. "People kept wanting to talk about Merion and all those good things.

"I feel two months removed from it now. The trophy is back at home. I've pretty much been traveling with it nonstop for four or five weeks and it's back home where it should be and I can reflect on it in quiet moments. But it's time to move forward."

It's not that he didn't enjoy his 2-stroke win in the Open. Rose appreciated his steady and steely play after starting out 4-over par on his first 11 holes in the opening round to win. He said Wednesday that he was surprised about "how calm I felt about being a major champion ... like a little bit of a deep breath, a smile of relief."

But the more he talked about Merion after the Open, the more uncomfortable he felt because it prevented him from pressing ahead to the future and more accomplishments.

"I feel like it's something to look back on at the end of my career," he said. "I think all of us at this point in our careers need to have our heads down, need to play as hard as you can, need to amass as much success as you can."

Rose, who turned 33 last week, would like to keep amassing that success this week at Oak Hill, a course where he shot 77 and 78 on the PGA's last visit in 2003 and missed the cut.

He has an advantage here in that he's one of the best drivers of the golf ball on the PGA Tour, ranking second in total driving (distance and accuracy). That will come in handy at a venue where some fairways appear as wide as bowling alleys from the tee.

"I love the way it's set up,' he said. "It's tough, it's fair. They have given you about a five-yard first cut (of rough), so they are kind of telling you where you can and can't miss the ball, basically not penalizing you too much for a slight mis-hit. But if you're off, you're going to be in trouble."

Rose will be in one of Thursday's featured groupings with the year's other two major champions _ Adam Scott (Masters) and Phil Mickelson (British Open). He said that while he felt for Mickelson after relegating him to his sixth runner-up finish in a U.S. Open, "I was happy for him to win" at Muirfield.

"I'm really looking forward to the experience for the first time," Rose said, "and looking to really turn a fantastic year into an incredible one."

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