An English flower took bloom in an American garden, flowering out of the thick rough at the Merion Golf Club. It has taken 15 long and arduous years since that memorable outing an amateur at the British Open, but 32-year-old Justin Rose finally made good on a perennial promise to clinch his maiden major title.
The 113th US Open reached a thrilling finale with at least five men vying for honours before the coveted silver jug ended in the inviting arms of the delighted Englishman. Eternal best man, Phil Mickelson had to remain content with a runner-up finish at the event for the sixth time in his career. The old lady had her own triumph too – not a single suitor managed to stay even with cruel Merion; Rose taking the title at one over par 281.
On a day when the lead changed hands at the drop of a hat, Rose had the first scent of it at the eighth hole. Meanwhile, overnight leader Mickelson had almost imploded with double bogeys at the third and fifth holes threatening to swallow his hopes. But the resilient American roared back into contention at the 10th hole.
Mickelson was in the thick rough 75 yards from the 10th pin, but the thrill sent his hopes soaring when he holed an eagle putt with a 64 degree wedge. It was a moment of sheer magic scripted for major folklore; Mickelson though did not have the lines written in his destiny.
The wedge was only about to turn his worst enemy and do some serious damage to the four time major champion’s hopes of a first US Open title. The par-3 13th was considered the easiest of holes this week, but Mickelson went past the green with his wedge and made bogey.
The flickering flame was almost extinguished at the 15th when Mickelson laid one just short of the green from 121 yards. He should have still been able to pitch to the pin from the front, but rolled it 25 feet past the wicker basket. He made another bogey there, which in hindsight cost him a chance at the title.
Mickelson needed a birdie at the 18th to force a play-off, but made another bogey to embrace yet another disappointment at the US Open. “Heartbreak,” was how Mickelson described it. “This is tough to swallow after coming so close. This was my best chance of all of them. I had a golf course I really liked. I felt this was as good an opportunity as you could ask for. It really hurts.”
Amidst the drama around Mickelson, Rose was walking the course with an almost monk like calm. Rose made the turn in one under (2 bogeys & 3 birdies) to stay in the hunt on the final stretch. The Englishman ended the day with five bogeys, but an equal amount of birdies, including back to back efforts at the 6th & 7th as well as 12th & 13th to set himself up for the perfect finish.
At the final hole, Rose nearly made the first birdie at the 18th in two days but ended just short of the pin. He tapped in from there for his first major title and looked up toward the cloudy skies to offer a silent tribute to his departed father. In winning the title, Rose became the first man from England to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
“It wasn’t lost on me that today was Father’s Day,” said Rose. “For it to all just work out for me, on such an emotional day, I couldn’t help but look up to the heavens and think that my old dad Ken had something to do with it.”