06/16/2013

A long journey from the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale culminated at Merion Golf Club in form of a U.S. Open victory for Englishman Justin Rose. 15 years ago, as an amateur, Rose placed 4th in the most storied tournament in all of golf. Today, he is a major champion.

With Ben Hogan’s famous plaque in the fairway of the 18th hole over Justin Rose’s shoulder, he laced his 223 yard approach over the final green’s knoll, racing just past the hole and settling at the back edge of the green. It was a great shot by Rose, a necessary one for his eventual one stroke victory over Phil Mickelson. It will be the shot to remember seen on replays for years to come – especially under some of golf’s most excruciating of pressures.

Rose’s play into the 18th upstaged a better shot, a stronger moment and potentially a more deserving champion in Phil Mickelson who had U.S. Open glory evade him yet again, despite his miraculous hole-out. On the 10th hole – after a front nine where he struggled – Phil’s magic happened in a way we have yet to see from him. From just under 80 yards – while in the rough, mind you – Phil gouged a wedge (one of his 5 wedges) onto the green and into the hole. His reminiscent leap gave us memories of the 2004 Masters as Phil leaped to the top of the leaderboard. Quite honestly, it was the only magic we saw from Phil the entire day.

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Phil has seemed destined to win U.S. Opens on multiple occasions. Finishing a runner-up again, it was Phil’s 6th career ‘Best Man’ honors in the U.S. Open. Similar to Sam Snead, this may be a tournament which always will escape his grips. Phil fans hope that isn’t true, but to continually pump out fantastic performances only to mar them with mistakes and shortcomings leave Phil exactly what he said after the tournament – heartbroken.

Justin Rose and his career’s upward trend peaked this week. Upon turning professional in 1999, Justin missed the cut in his first 21 career events. After righting the ship, in 2002 Justin’s father Ken passed away, leaving a 21-year old young man to travel the world and try to play professional golf alone without a father. Only in the past few years, Rose became relevant on the world stage winning first at the Memorial and most recently winning last year at Doral.

Last fall in the Ryder Cup, it was Rose Vs. Mickelson, with Justin making clutch putt after clutch putt against Phil, with Phil clapping on Rose’s clutch performance. Rose stole the point from Phil in the end and this week, stole the United States Open. Justin became the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1996 to win a major championship. I’m sure his final round pairing with good friend and fellow Englishman Luke Donald eased him into comfortablity to perform on this Sunday.

In the end, a hole out at Birkdale for Rose in ’98 wasn’t enough for Rose to win the British and unfortunately a hole out wasn’t enough for Phil to win this U.S. Open either. What it did take to win, was 4 scores which didn’t deviate from more than one stroke to par as Justin’s rounds of 71-69-71-70 were the epitome of U.S. Open champion.

And you know what, he is a U.S. Open champion. An impressive one, at that.

Troy Klongerbo

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