Justin Rose spoilt the party in Philidelphia, just as he had done in Chicago, nine months ago at the Ryder Cup. And, just as in Chicago, the man left trailing in his wake was the crowd favourite in America, Phil Mickelson.
At the Ryder Cup, it was the Englishman’s snaky, long putt on the 17th hole which broke the American’s heart in their singles match. In Phili, it was Rose’s two solid pars on two of the toughest holes in the game, the 17th and 18th at Merion, which ultimately led to the American’s sixth runner-up spot in his national Open.
His 5-iron to the 246 yard 17th which allowed him an easy two-putt for a par. And then on the 18th, he hit a magnificent drive which split the fairway, and finished close to the plaque, marking Ben Hogan’s famous 1-iron, and followed it with another pure iron shot, which just finished off the back of the green.
“When I came up the hill and saw my ball sitting there, with the crowds behind,” Rose said afterwards, “I just realised this was my moment. My coach, Sean Foley, sent me a lovely text this morning, just telling me to go out there and be the man my Dad taught me to be. The history and the silverware are all great, but actually it’s all the moments out there on the course, when you are learning about yourself, and testing yourself and asking yourself questions, that’s what makes moments like this special. The celebrations were probably more fun in the Ryder Cup, because you have done it as a team. But this is more satisfying for me, because this is a journey, which has taken 20, nearly 30 years.”
“Whenever I think of the US Open, I think of heartbreak,” said a desperately disappointed Mickelson. “This is probably an even tougher loss than winged Foot, because I was playing so well, and I just love this golf course. At 43, if I had won, it would have changed the way I think about the second major of the year, but now when I think about it, all I think is heartbreak. I should have made bogeys rather than double bogeys on the 3rd and 5th. And, my wedge shots on the 13th and the 15th were both shots I would like back again.”
Rose’s final round started with him two shots behind Mickelson; but two lengthy putts at the difficult 6th and easier 7th saw him take the lead. He was aware of Mickelson making an eagle 2 at the 10th two groups behind him, to take the lead back off him; and was equally able to respond almost immediately, by making two more birdies at the 12th and 13th.
After Justin Rose tapped in to finish on 1 over par, he looked straight up into the sky, and it looked as though he was saying thank you to his Dad, Ken, who was his coach and only mentor, and who died of leukemia in 2002.
“I sent my Mum a text last night,” said Rose, “saying ‘Let’s win this for Dad’. She sent one straight back saying ‘That would be great’. I know she misses him so much, and so do I.”
Asked how he planned to celebrate, Rose smiled and hinted he might be having a drink of something out of the famous trophy, despite the fact that he plans to play tournaments in the next two weeks.
“Adam Scott sent me a really nice text,” Rose said, “after he won the Masters. He said ‘Your time is coming soon’. How right he was! I learnt a lot from Adam’s win at Augusta. I prepared for this year’s Masters with him, playing with him in the Bahamas, and taking his money twice! So, when he went and won that major, I thought that was a bit unfair. But, most of all what I learnt from Adam was that I wasn’t scared of the heartache of losing one of these. He needs as much praise for how he conducted himself after his bitter loss at Lytham [in last year’s Open].”
1 Justin Rose +1
T2 Phil Mickelson, Jason Day +3
T4 Jason Dufner, Ernie Els, Billy Horschel, Hunter Mahan +4
T8 Luke Donald, Steve Stricker
T10 Hideki Matsuyama, Nicolas Colsaerts, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Ricky Fowler +7
14 Charl Schwartzel +8