HONG KONG (AFP) - Justin Rose admitted his Hong Kong Open golf title defence was all but over on Saturday and said he was treating the US$2 million (S$2.83 million) tournament as "rehab" for a painful back injury.
The Olympic champion carded a level-par 70 for an aggregate score of one-under 209 for the tournament, trailing the leaders - Australian Sam Brazel (67) and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello (70) - by 10 strokes after round three.
Rose displayed signs of discomfort during his round but he said he was feeling his way back to fitness after pulling out of last week's Hero World Challenge with the back problem.
"I think this has been the perfect week for me, sort of acts as rehab," the 36-year-old Englishman told reporters.
"I'm out here doing my job, the physios out here have been great, the gym facilities at the hotel have been great. It's been a really good week getting fit."
The world No. 15 and detailed a heavy schedule of taping, physio and gym work before he even picks up a club to practise before his rounds.
But the 2013 US Open winner said such preparations were normal for him, after spending most of his career coping with back problems.
"Anyone who plays this game for a living and plays as much as we do, it's part of the job. If you scan everybody here, they are all going to have a bad back at one point," he said.
"I've been dealing with it since I was 21 years old. I've had bad discs since I was 21 and I've done a brilliant job managing it throughout my career.
"I've been very gym-fit and I've got a great team which operates around me, and every once in a while things flare up. It's just the nature of the beast."
Rose said he felt confident enough in his back to unleash on a couple of tee shots late in his round, "stuff that I wouldn't have entertained the first few days".
But with no chance of retaining the Hong Kong trophy, he said he had tempered his expectations to merely shooting a good final round on Sunday.
"(I've got) no prospects really in term of winning the golf tournament," he said, adding: "I feel like I deserve a good round out of the week. I felt very close to playing well this week."