Putting and short-game instructor David Orr had a nice list of clientele from his humble and somewhat secluded home base in small town Buies Creek that included PGA Tour players Charlie Wi, Roberto Castro, Troy Matteson and North Carolina’s Neal Lancaster.
So it was exciting last June when he received a call from world-class player Justin Rose, who asked if he could fly Orr to Orlando for some help on and around the greens.
One year later, Orr, the director of instruction at Campbell University’s PGA Golf Management School, is part of a team that helped Rose win his first major after capturing the coveted U.S. Open Championship at Merion Golf Club.
“He called me late the night he won and we had a special moment together,” Orr said. “I’m grateful he would think of me with all that was going on. It was great.”
Orr met Rose in passing during a practice round a few years ago on the PGA Tour stop at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, and became friends with Rose’s swing coach, Sean Foley. When Rose began struggling with his putting in 2012, Foley suggest he give Orr a ring.
Rose began taking lessons from Orr and even came to Harnett County last year prior to the Tour Championship, where he finished second.
That was the beginning of some spectacular golf for Rose, who proceeded to make clutch putts in a Ryder Cup match against Phil Mickelson, then two weeks later knocked off Tiger Woods and other top players to win the World Golf Final in Turkey.
Now, he wears the U.S. Open crown.
“We’ve been together for a year and it just goes to show that it’s a process, it’s not instant,” Orr said. “When I flew to Orlando last June we put together a plan for improvement and we saw some of those fruits of labor late last summer.” “With any type of improvement you see some success and some frustration and then some success, it normally is ebb-and-flow. But with Justin it has always been a gradual improvement. It is a team effort. A lot of people don’t realize he’s got a great team behind him, including his caddy, his swing coach and his mental coach. I’m just glad to be a small part of it.”
Orr headed to Merion the week before the Open for three days of preparation with Rose, then was back in Philadelphia for two more days prior to the start of competition before settling back into his couch for a nail-biting weekend in Buies Creek.
“We mapped out the entire golf course,” Orr said. “We felt it was key getting used to the golf course. I felt like that preparation was huge and it kind of made Justin relax and play Merion almost like a member.”
Rose’s biggest area of improvement has been reading greens, one of Orr’s specialties. He has also worked on his set-up with Orr and trying to be more consistent with his stroke and putting lines.
“He made some big putts again in the final round,” Orr said. “I’ve nicknamed him The Closer. Once again there he was coming down to the 72nd hole and he made the shots. Obviously his ball striking coming down the last five holes was awesome – that was all ball striking right there. The guys who can strike the golf ball are the guys who are going to win.”
But Orr sat back and smiled when Rose’s long iron into the 18th on the final hole raced past the hole and ran into the first cut of rough just inches off the fringe about 20 feet from the cup. Rose pulled out a three-wood and pulled off a shot within tap-in range to seal his victory.
“That was a great course management decision for him because the rough at Merion was very unpredictable,” Orr said. “Justin played the safest shot possible for that situation so I was really pleased with his decision making.”
Few realize that a win like Rose’s may not only propel the player to greater heights, but also bump Orr’s resume and reputation to a new level.
“Our team all works together and we all know what’s going on with each other,” Orr said of his relationship with Foley. “I’ve learned so much from a coaching aspect; it’s not all about knowledge, it’s about saying the right thing at the right time and Sean Foley is a master at that. He’s the best coach in the world for a reason.
It’s somewhat ironic that Rose will defend his title next year at Pinehurst No. 2, a hop-skip-and-chip shot from Campbell University.
“Putting and chipping at No. 2 is going to be key, it always is, so you can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to be prepared, mapping out those greens and that golf course,” Orr said. “I look forward to Justin doing well. I don’t think this was his one and only major. It’s like what he said; this just feels right. He’s going to become more comfortable in his own skin.
“I’ve spent probably 40 days with Justin in one year, so it has been interesting because that’s a lot of time. Hey, the day after the Open win was our one-year anniversary. Hopefully I can get a cupcake for that,” joked Orr.