Local favourite Rose thrilled to be in Match Play lineup

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VIRGINIA WATER, England, Oct 10 (Reuters) In-form Briton Justin Rose is excited at the prospect of competing in the World Match Play championship for only the second time in his career.

''It's great to be part of the field because this is an event I watched as a kid,'' the 27-year-old Londoner told reporters on the eve of the Wentworth event. ''I seem to have memories of Nick Faldo and Greg Norman.

''I remember being one of those kids who stands at the back of the ropes shouting for golf balls. I remember just being bowled over when Norman came through, a 10 or 11-year-old kid, struck at the size of the guy and being in awe of him.'' Fifth seed Rose, who starts his Match Play campaign with a 36-hole first-round match against American Hunter Mahan tomorrow qualified for the elite 16-strong field because of his excellent form in this year's majors.

The world number 11 shared fifth place at the US Masters, tied for 10th at the US Open, tied 12th at the British Open and tied 12th in the US PGA Championship.

''A nice reward for playing well in the majors was getting into this event,'' said Rose, who last appeared at the World Match Play in 2002. ''Certainly one of the reasons why I wanted to play well in the majors was to gain entry into this event.'' Rose, who is based mainly in Florida, has also blossomed so much on his few European Tour forays this season that he has a chance of finishing top of the order of merit.

''Through nine events I have played, my worst finish is 12th and I'm very, very happy with that,'' he said. ''It's crazy really and just shows my consistency has been so good this year.

''It didn't even cross my mind at the start of the season. I wasn't sure if I thought it possible to play 11 events and win the order of merit.'' Rose is second on the money list, 42,900 dollars adrift of Ireland's Padraig Harrington who meets Dane Anders Hansen in tomorrow's first round.

''Winning at Wentworth would be special, a highlight of the year, or even a career, just due to living so close and having a lot of family and friends around the area,'' said Rose.

REUTERS BJR RK1940

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