JERSEY CITY, N.J. — To mere mortals like us, playing for a potential $15 million check would cause the toughest of competitors to tense up. Even if you have a lot of money, that's a lot of money. So no one would blame Justin Rose if he admitted to being a bit nervous at Liberty National, being ranked 11th in the FedEx Cup standings entering the week, with the reality of a first-place $15 million payday being possible.
Except, that's the opposite of what Rose says his approach is this week. He says he has nothing to lose—even after he shot a second-round 68 to build on an opening six-under 65, putting the Englishman in the mix entering the weekend.
How could you have nothing to lose when there's all that money on the line?
"I've won a tournament at the beginning of the year, and it'd be just really nice to add one at the end of the year to bookend things," Rose said. "I'll just be free-wheeling this weekend, which is great. I just want to put myself in a position come East Lake to where I have a chance."
What he has the chance to do is become the first back-to-back FedEx Cup champion in the playoffs' existence. Perhaps the pressure could mount at East Lake when that possibility becomes more real, but Rose was smiling and joking after his round Friday.
Even after a year in which he contended twice in the majors but didn't convert—shooting a final-round 79 at the Open Championship to slide to T-20, and shooting a closing 74 at the U.S. Open to finish T-3 after playing nearly flawless golf for three rounds—Rose thinks success in the FedEx Cup would be a nice bonus, but not necessary to make this a great year. Perhaps he's right. His victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January was great, and then he has gone on to make every cut except one (the Masters). Probably not where he set his goals, but a good year for most players. And obviously good enough for Rose to where he's satisfied with his results.
Rose says he really likes the way East Lake, the site of the Tour Championship, fits his eye, as evidenced by finishing second last year to earn the $11 million FedEx Cup bonus. Though that bonus is upped by $4 million, and the prospect of becoming the only back-to-back FedEx Cup champ has presented itself after a stellar start at Liberty National, Rose won't start to think about it yet.
"I'm way closer with my game than I was at the U.S. Open and at the Open Championship, so that's exciting," he said. "The new [FedEx Cup] system is set up to where no one can run away with it. This golf course affords you the chance to make birdies with it being a little softer right now. I'm in great position, so it'd be nice to have a couple good weeks and put myself up at the standings."