Bug off!

Justin Rose flies up the St. Jude leaderboard with a 61, hindered only by a moth ball

August 12, 2023

Justin Rose of England hits his tee shot on the 11th hole.

Jason Allen/ISI Photos

MEMPHIS – Among the infinitesimal number of factors large and small that might encroach on a golfer’s ability to post a score, we can now add a member of the Lepidoptera order of flying insects. We’re referring to a moth that was drawn to a Rose, subgroup Justin, at just the wrong time, which in this case happened to be as the Englishman was contemplating an opportunity to shoot 59.

The offending white little menace swooped in front of Rose just as he began his downswing at the par-3 14th hole during Saturday third round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Distracted almost imperceptibly, Rose came over the top of a 7-iron and sent his tee shot left of the green on a downslope 58 feet from the cup. No sooner had the ball left his clubface Rose, clearly perturbed, pointed at the meddling creature.

“His timing was perfect,” said Rose, who at the time was eight under par on a day when the air around TPC Southwind held no wind and greens were still soft from heavy rains earlier in the week.

The former U.S. Open champion got up and down for par by sinking a 16-footer, but other than a tap-in birdie at the short par-5 16th, he didn’t have realistic looks at birdie the rest of the round. He settled for a bogey-free nine-under 61 and a piece of the course record held by three other players.

“Did it mess up my concentration a little? I don’t know about that,” Rose, 43, said. “I did save par there. But, yeah, maybe I didn’t quite have that same edge to my round after that.”

Before that, however, Rose was, um, flying up the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first five holes, including a chip-in at the fifth, and turned in six-under 29. Then he birdied 11 and 12 from short range and the bid for 59 was on.

“I was aware of 59. That was really my primary objective," Rose said. “Middle of the 15th fairway at eight under, that's a sand wedge into the green. Hit a good shot over the top of the flag. That's one of the challenges all the players are having this week is just controlling your distances with the short irons. The ball is going so far because of the heat. Then obviously 16 is always an opportunity where you kind of throw an eagle at it or something. So I knew that 59 was obviously on the cards.”

It was not to be, however. But he felt less disappointment than a year ago at the RBC Canadian Open when he bogeyed three times, including on his final hole, at St. George’s Golf Course and signed for a dyspeptic 60.

“That was a bad 60, a tough-to-take 60, because I didn't feel like I did a lot wrong,” said Rose, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year, his first PGA Tour win in four years. “You don't often get a chance to shoot 59, so obviously when it happens you want to take it.”

Rose beat his opening-round 76 by 15 shots and insisted that there was very little difference between the two rounds as far as quality of play. The score, on the other hand, well, it’s always about the score.

“It's amazing isn't it. Very little changed but a lot changed,” he said.

And one little bug changed a lot, too. Damn moth.