Thursday, January 18, 2018
Golf

Rose wins U.S. Open; Mickelson ties for second

ARDMORE, Pa. — A steady hand gave Justin Rose the shiny U.S. Open trophy. A wild ride gave Phil Mickelson yet another silver medal.

Rose won his first major championship Sunday with remarkable calm and three pure shots on the punishing closing holes at Merion Golf Club. A par on the 18th gave him par 70 for the final round, and at 1-over 281, that was good enough to make him the first Englishman in 43 years to win the major.

"When I came over the hill and saw my ball laying in the (18th) fairway, I thought, 'This is my moment,' " Rose said.

As usual, someone's big moment in the U.S. Open came at Mickelson's expense.

On his 43rd birthday, Mickelson entered the final round alone in the lead for the first time, at 1 under. Heading to 18 in the final pair after a thrill-ride kind of day, he was one shot back of Rose. That meant he needed to birdie a par-4 hole that hadn't yielded one in the final two rounds.

On his third shot, from about 40 yards from the cup, Mickel­son's chip raced by, securing Rose's victory. He ended up bogeying the hole for 4-over 74, which left him at 3 over for the tournament and tied for second with Jason Day.

Mickelson was the runnerup for a record sixth time in the Open, which he has never won.

"Heartbreak," Mickelson said. "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."

Rose, 32, became the first Englishman to win since Tony Jacklin in 1970 and the first to win any major since Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters. Starting the day two back of Mickelson, he balanced five bogeys with five birdies and was the only player in the last four groups to shoot par or better. The other seven players were a combined 33 over.

At No. 18, he smashed the most important tee shot of his career down the middle, about 15 feet short of the famous Ben Hogan plaque. And his 4-iron rolled near the pin and settled against the collar of the green.

As he walked off the green after his par putt, he pointed to the sky, a nod to his late father, Ken, who died of leukemia in September 2002. "I couldn't 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 first stormed on the major scene as a 17-year-old amateur who chipped in on the final hole at Royal Birkdale in the 1998 British Open and tied for fourth. He turned pro the next week, then missed the cut in his first 21 tournaments.

But Rose stayed the course and slowly picked off big tournaments, including the AT&T National in 2010 just down the road at Aronimink. The U.S. Open takes him to another level and moves him to the No. 3 ranking in the world.

Rose is good friends with Adam Scott, who in April became the first Australian to win the Masters. After the Masters, Scott sent Rose a text message that said, "Your time's coming soon."

"He's a wise man," Rose said.

Mickelson lost his lead with two double bogeys in the first five holes. He got it back by holing out from 75 yards in thick rough on the 10th hole for eagle, which sent him jumping up and down and pumping his arms.

"It put me right up on the lead and right at even par, where I thought would be the winning score," he said. "And I had a couple of birdie opportunities with 11, 12 and 13 coming up. So it was a critical juncture there."

But it was a fleeting moment. Rose birdied 12 not long after the eagle to pull even and took sole possession of the lead when he drained a long putt at 13.

Then Mickelson, on the par-3 13th — the easiest hole — drilled a wedge over the green and made bogey. He had another bogey at 15.

Usually deadly with a wedge in hand, Mickelson acknowledged hitting two poor wedge shots to set up those bogeys.

"Two costly shots," he said. "Those wedge shots on 13 and 15 are the two I'll look back on."

 
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