Justin Rose could see all the pieces coming together in this US Open. The sun was breaking through the clouds on Sunday evening at Merion as he stood in the 18th fairway with a one-shot lead. That famous Ben Hogan plaque was in front of him,a road marker bronze that one pure swing and two putts might be all that stood between Rose and his first major championship.
That and Phil Mickelson in the final group behind him. Rose followed his script to perfection with a par. So did Mickelson,who cant seem to win a U.S. Open no matter how hard he tries.
Rose drilled a 4-iron just through the green and used a 3-wood to bunt the ball to an inch of the cup for par. Mickelson,who made two careless bogeys on the back nine,needed a birdie on an 18th hole that didnt yield a single one all weekend at Merion. What a piece of silverware to be sitting to my right, Rose said,gazing at the trophy after closing with an even-par 70. Its just an incredible experience and a childhood dream come true at this point. With remarkable poise and three pure swings under pressure,Rose became the first Englishman in 43 years to win Americas national championship.
Mickelson extended his U.S. Open record with his sixth runner-up finish,and this one stung. It was the first time he had the outright lead going into the final round. Mickelson wound up with a bogey on the 18th for a 74 and tied for second with Jason Day,who closed with a 71.
The back nine was a four-way battle that included Hunter Mahan,who played in the last group with Mickelson. He was one shot out of the lead until he three-putted the 15th hole for a double bogey,and then closed with back-to-back bogeys when his hopes were gone. Mahan had a 75 and tied for fourth with Billy Horschel (74),Ernie Els (69) and Jason Dufner,who had a 67 despite making triple bogey on the 15th hole.
The last Englishman to win the U.S. Open was Tony Jacklin at Hazeltine in 1970,though Rose added to recent dominance of the Union Jack at the U.S. Open as the third winner in four years. The others were Graeme McDowell (2010) and Rory McIlroy (2011) of Northern Ireland.
Walking off the 18th green,he pointed to the sky,a nod to his late father,Ken,who died of leukemia in September 2002. I couldnt help but look up at the heavens and think my old man Ken had something to do with it, Rose said.
It seems like more than 15 years ago when Rose starred,as a 17-year-old amateur,chipped in on the final hole at Royal Birkdale in the 1998 British Open and tied for fourth. He turned pro the next week,and then missed the cut in his first 21 tournaments. The win takes him to another level and moves him to No. 3 in the world.
Lefty: The eternal bridesmaid
There was no big birthday celebration for Phil Mickelson,Lefty,who turned 43 at Merion Golf Club on Sunday,only another case of heartache at the U.S. Open. Mickelson began the day with a one-stroke lead but despite a sensational eagle-two at the par-four 10th when he holed out from the rough,the big left-hander finished two shots behind winner Justin Rose to finish runner-up once again.
In tying Australian Jason Day after shooting a final-round 74 for a three-over-par 284 total,Mickelson extended his U.S. Open record with a sixth second-place finish. For me its very heartbreaking, Mickelson said. This could have been a really big turnaround for me on how I look at the U.S. Open,the tournament that Id like to win,after having so many good opportunities.
Mickelson had finished second best in 2009,2006,2004,2002 and 1999,but the big left-hander thought he was poised to finally break through at Merion after being in the lead after each of the first three rounds.
The way that I was playing heading in,the position I was in and the way I love the golf course, said Mickelson,who bogeyed three of his last six holes to yield the advantage to Rose.
Mickelson gave himself a slew of birdie opportunities but burned the edges with numerous putts and failed to execute with his vaunted short game down the closing stretch.
Regarded as one of the games best wedge players,Mickelson misfired at the 13th and 15th holes leading to bogeys. At 13,he fired a wedge shot too strong,directly over the flag into thick tangly rough behind the green. Two holes later he landed a gap wedge shot too short and it trundled back off the green leading to another bogey.
Thirteen and 15 were the two bad shots of the day, he said. Mickelson said he felt his putting stroke was in fine order though he had little to show for it. The stroke felt fabulous all day,starting at the first hole. I cant believe that ball didnt go in, he said. Second hole I hit a good putt. It was really rough around that hole there.
Mickelson said of all his Open near misses,this one hurt the most. This ones probably the toughest for me,because at 43 and coming so close five times,it would have changed the way I look at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record. (Instead) I just keep feeling heartbreak.