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Rose looking forward to Matchplay debut

Justin Rose, who plays Vijay Singh in today's first round of the Cisco World Matchplay Championship, was recalling the days when he was one of the small boys hanging around Wentworth's last green in the hope of a Nick Faldo or a Greg Norman throwing a golf ball his way.

Although the late Payne Stewart gave him his ball at the 1993 Open, Rose never got his hands on one at Wentworth. Indeed, the closest he got to any of the players was when Norman brushed past Justin and his pals as he made his way to lunch.

"If you had told me then that I'd be playing in the Matchplay myself by the time I was 22, I wouldn't have believed you," Rose said yesterday.

At 14, he reached the quarter-finals of the English Championship, and at the same stage he reached the last 16 of the Amateur. Rose has always seen himself as a good matchplayer but knows he will have his work cut out against a player of Singh's calibre.

"What I have been thinking is that I'll need to get off to a good start," Rose said. "And that if I should get three or four ahead, I should realise that that's nothing over a 36-hole match. By the same token, if I should go three or four down, I have to remember that there's plenty of time to put things right."

There is £250,000 for the winner this week, £120,000 for the runner-up and even £50,000 for first-round losers. When Rose was asked how he would feel if he were to pick up £50,000 on a day when he had lost, he came up with an answer of which his late father, Ken, would have been proud. Namely, that £50,000 would hardly begin to make up for the wounded pride involved. "The guarantee is wonderful but you go out to win the tournament. If you get a whipping, you're bound to be upset," he said.

It would seem that the excitement about the recent Ryder Cup triumph is not going to begin to die down until such time as the next captain is selected.

Yesterday Nick Faldo, who plays Michael Campbell in the first round for a second-round tie against the defending champion, Ian Woosnam, reiterated that he has no interest in being captain in 2004 because he wants to play in the team then instead.

As to which year he would want the job, Faldo said that any time would do. "I'll wait 10 years, if necessary," he said.

Pre-empting those who would say that he would by then be out of touch with the players, this winner of six majors talked of how the reverse would almost certainly be true. He knows all the young professionals, such as Nick Dougherty, who have come up via his Nick Faldo Junior Series, and points to how, in 10 years' time, he will know them better than ever.

Rose, for one, agreed with all of that. He said he respected Faldo for deciding to try to play in 2004 and that he would still have the same respect for him whenever he wanted to be captain.

Faldo will back Woosnam for the 2004 captaincy and no one would be surprised were the Welshman awarded the job in the next few weeks. Woosnam has already had a variety of thoughts on how he and his wife, Glendryth, would handle the position. "Glen would make sure the girls are happy and if they're happy, the men are happy. Give them plenty of money to spend," he said. He did not say whose.

Els, who awaits the winner of Colin Montgomerie and Fred Funk, has had everything he wanted from this year, what with his triumph at Muirfield and the birth of his son, Ben, a fortnight ago. However, there are those who find it difficult to understand why he does not want to add the European Order of Merit to his list of things to celebrate.

He is lying in second place, some £30,000 behind Retief Goosen. If he wanted to overtake his compatriot, he would need to play in the end-of-season Volvo Masters which, for the moment, does not feature in his plans. "When I did my schedule, it was never really in my mind that I would have a chance to win the Order of Merit," he said.

It is as well that Els feels he could play Wentworth in his sleep. Such are the nocturnal activities of his new baby that the Open champion can barely keep his eyes open.

The draw

M Campbell (NZ) v N Faldo (England). Winner plays I Woosnam (Wales).

P Harrington (Ireland) v M Weir (Canada). Winner plays S Garcia (Spain).

V Singh (Fiji) v J Rose (England). Winner plays R Goosen (S Africa).

C Montgomerie (Scotland) v F Funk (US). Winner plays E Els (S Africa).


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