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Is Justin Rose the Best Golfer in the World Right Now?

CROMWELL, CT - JUNE 25:  Justin Rose of England lines up a putt during the second round of the Travelers Championship held at TPC River Highlands on June 25, 2010 in Cromwell, Connecticut.  (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen/Getty Images
Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJuly 6, 2010

Through two majors and a good chunk of the golf season, there is no clear-cut favorite for a player of the year in golf.

No one on the PGA Tour has won more than two events in 2010.

The Fed-Ex Cup standings have Ernie Els in the lead, with Justin Rose second and Phil Mickelson third. Els and Rose have won twice each, Mickelson once. The other two-time winner on tour this year is Jim Furyk, who is fourth in Fed Ex Cup points.

These four players have the best shot at the being the player of the year, but because of the lack of dominance by any player this year, it is still a wide-open race.

Anthony Kim had a great shot at rising to the top before a thumb injury and surgery has sidelined him for several weeks, and will keep him out a few more. He has slipped to sixth in the Fed Ex Cup standings, and figures to drop lower as he rehabilitates the hand.

So who is the favorite to finish the year strong and rise to the top? Mickelson? Furyk? Els?

How about a guy who didn't even qualify for the first two majors of the year?

How about Justin Rose? In addition to his two recent wins, Rose has a third place finish in between and five Top 10s for the year.

As mentioned, he is second in Fed Ex Cup points, as well as third on the PGA Tour money list.

Rose has moved up to 16th in the World Rankings.

It is what Rose has done in recent weeks that has finally catapulted the soon to be 30 year old from another ho hum season to contending for the Fed Ex Cup lead.

Rose won his first ever PGA tournament at the Memorial in early June. Three weeks later, he seemed poised to win again at the Travelers Championship, taking a 3 shot lead in the final round. A disappointing 75 on Sunday took Rose out of the running and he finished in a tie for nineth.

A week later, Rose again took a big lead into Sunday, this time a five-shot advantage. Again, early troubles erased the big lead, but this time Rose hung on. Justin finished with seven consecutive pars to win the tournament by a shot.

So is this just a hot streak, or has Justin Rose finally emerged as one of golf's elite?

From a can't miss 17-year-old, a dozen years ago who finished fourth at the British Open, Rose's career has not been without plenty of heartache and missed opportunities.

"It's been a hard, long road," Rose said in his press conference after the win on Sunday. "But I think I've learned more in the hard times."

Justin almost fell off the golf map altogether right after that fourth place British Open finish as a 17-year-old. After turning pro in 1998 he missed 21 straight cuts.

In 1999 he missed 11 of his first 13 cuts, and in 2000 missed 13 of 18 to begin the year.

A few forgettable wins here and there abroad through the first decade of the century, but he had mostly become an afterthought in golf.

Rose is most definitely back, and will be among the favorites at St. Andrews later in the month. Although he didn't qualify for the first two majors of the year, look for Rose to make some noise in the last two.

When posed with the notion that he is playing the best golf of anyone in the world right now, Rose didn't dismiss it, as he perhaps would have in the past.

"I think it's a fact," he said. "I don't look at it any other way. I'm playing great."

This is indeed a new Justin Rose.

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