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Golf | European Tour

Justin Rose © Gallo Images

Rose looking to thrive in the desert



Justin Rose believes he is capable of closing the gap that exists between himself and leading pair Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

The 32-year-old Englishman enjoyed a strong finish to 2012 at the Ryder Cup and in the Race to Dubai and he has chosen to open his campaign this year back in the Gulf at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

World No 1 McIlroy and No 2 Woods head a strong European Tour field in the emirate and Rose relishes the opportunity to have an early crack at the game's two biggest stars.

"I think status is something I'm a long way from but I believe my game is not that far at all," he said on Wednesday.

"I'm very happy with my skill set. I'm very happy that I can close the gap (on McIlroy and Woods) or hopefully make the gap disappear with some hard work and just continue what I'm doing.

"I know what I need to improve and I know how I'm going to do it and I back myself and I feel comfortable standing up in that situation now and believing that I have the tools and the skills to compete."

Rose's career to date has seen a number of ebbs and flows in form since he first burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old amateur at the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale where he finished fourth.

He took several years to get to grips with the demands of the professional tour but by 2007 he had won the European Order of Merit and was ranked in the world top 10 for 34 weeks between November 2007 and July 2008.

A troublesome back saw him tumble down the rankings but he rebounded in 2010 with two tournament wins on the USPGA Tour and was a regular contender in the majors.

Last year he ended the year ranked fourth in the world after a strong Ryder Cup where he beat Phil Mickelson in the closing singles, defeated McIlroy and Woods in Turkey and then took second spot behind McIlory in the season-ending Race to Dubai.

"So, there's three very positive experiences on which I can draw," he said.

"I now begin to trust. I don't need to do anything different in order to, one, put myself into contention and, two, I trust my processes enough now to believe that I can deliver under pressure."

Rose will set off on Thursday in the company of British Open champion Ernie Els and Abu Dhabi defending champion Robert Rock.

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