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Honma Hong Kong Open

Justin Rose praying his back holds out as he admits worries over Hong Kong Open title defence

Olympic champion Justin Rose is returning to action for first time since October after pulling out injured of home tournament last week

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2016, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 12:18am

Defending Hong Kong Open champion Justin Rose admits he’s just hoping to get through all four rounds in one piece this week after a back injury that put his participation in serious doubt.

Rose pulled out of the Hero World Challenge over his home course in the Bahamas last week after tweaking his back in “one of those unfortunate ‘life injuries’ where you move the wrong way” and admitted it was “50-50” whether he would board the plane to Hong Kong.

The thought of relinquishing his title – and a hefty appearance fee, cynics will suggest – without a fight convinced him to make the long journey. The Olympic champion hopes he can produce something approaching his best, having only played one competitive round since October.

“I’m hoping the fact I’ve been diligent and careful the last few days is going to allow me to be competitive all four days,” said Rose, who first had back issues in May and has been resting for the last couple of months.

Watch: Can Justin Rose repeat his 2015 UBS Hong Kong Open success?

Among the highlights of his time off as seen on Instagram were a guided tour of Chelsea’s training ground by John Terry and a spot of sport fishing with pop star Justin Timberlake – but Rose dispelled the notion he’s had his feet up.

“It’s been seven weeks of hard work, it certainly hasn’t been seven weeks of R&R. It’s been seven weeks at home, seven weeks dropping the kids at school, seven weeks parenting which is pretty difficult.

“Last week was a mishap for sure, but I feel good about things in general. You never forget how to compete so once Thursday starts hopefully everything kicks in, the system gets up and running. This is a golf course I’ve played enough now to be able to see it blind so to speak.

“I know my game plan, I know my strategy and I’ve got good memories on which to draw so that’s as positive as I can be.”

Rose didn’t play in Wednesday’s Pro-am as he tried to protect his back and was spotted moving gingerly merely filling his plate from the buffet in Hong Kong Golf Club’s clubhouse. He tees off with another former champion, Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Scott Hend, and popular Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee at noon on Thursday.

“I’ve done everything I can the last few days to get ready and defend my title here, it was very disappointing to pull out of the Hero … but I felt unable to continue and it would have jeopardised this tournament.

“Making the trip was 50-50 at one point last week, but obviously I wanted to be here as best I could and I’m trying to get to the first tee tomorrow in best condition I can be.”

Rose, who beat Lucas Bjerregaard on the 18th hole last year in a thrilling final-day showdown to win the title, hopes Fanling’s short layout will help him avoid too much strain.

“All aspects of your game get affected, obviously I haven’t been able to put as much time in on any part of my game as I would have.

“But you’d have to say driving [is the most affected] … this is a good course [in that] you can play a lot of irons off the tee … so I’m hoping that’ll work in my favour.”

Fans – not to mention organisers who took plenty of criticism a few years ago when Rory McIlroy took a big appearance fee only to miss the cut – will be praying he’s right.