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Rose looking forward to first title defence

Justin Rose returns to the scene of his breakthrough win this week ready to take his game to an even higher level.

Rose's victory at last year's Dunhill Championship sparked a brilliant season in which he won four tournaments on three continents.

That success saw him shoot up the world rankings to 37 and he returns to Johannesburg's Houghton course as the highest rated player in this week's field.

"A year ago, my first win gave me the confidence to go to the next level," said Rose, who had finished second to Adam Scott in 2001.

It would be a dream come true to play in the Masters as a professional

Rose, who was born in Johannesburg and raised in England, is hopeful of maintaining his outstanding form at Houghton, where he is 40 under par for the last two events with a remarkable scoring average of 67.

"I made a good start last year," he said.

"It would be nice to do something similar this season, although it's not the be-all and end-all," added Rose, who is likely to warm up for his Masters debut by playing two events in America.

The 22-year-old was satisfied to tie for eighth on his seasonal debut in Cape Town last week.

And the winner of that South African Open, Trevor Immelman, could be Rose's main rival in this week's tournament.

Immelman, who won in a play-off on the Erinvale course where he used to be a member, is hoping to join Rose in the Masters in April.

"A lot comes down to the world rankings," the 23-year-old said of his Major ambitions.

"I'm just inside the cut-off for the World Matchplay (62nd with top 64 qualifying) and only 12 spots out of getting into the Masters.

"The top 50 in the rankings the weekend before the tournament qualify and that would be fantastic.

"It would be a dream come true to play in the Masters as a professional after playing it as an amateur," said the South African, who won the US Public Links championship to qualify for Augusta in 1998.


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