Now that the 113th U.S. Open has commenced, everyone wants to talk about two things that are not worth discussing. They are Phil Mickelson’s record six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open and Tiger Woods’ continued struggles on the weekend at majors. Since these are the two most popular players on tour I can understand, but the real two headlines are as followed:
Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP
1. Justin Rose won his first career major on Father’s Day. The significance of both of these is huge. First, becoming a major champion puts a player on another level. Now, Justin Rose should be considered the best Englishman in the world. Better than former number one Luke Donald, and fellow countryman Lee Westwood.
Rose took down Merion by not giving up after not starting out strong. And I’m not talking about in the final round. Rose began the day Thursday four-over thru 13 holes. He then birdied three of his final five holes to end the day one-over, and get back in the hunt.
He started out the second round with a bang, birdieing holes one and two. After going one-over the rest of the way, Rose remained in the hunt going into the weekend at even-par overall.
Would the nerves get to him? Well, Rose seemed to not let them. After parring the first, Rose went bogey-bogey to fall back into the black numbers. He finished the front nine with three pars then birdied the tenth to get back to even. After birdieing the short par-three thirteenth to get right back in the red, Rose parred the next three then bogeyed the last two to finish the third round going the wrong way. But, Rose was only two behind the leaders with eighteen holes between him and the U.S. Open Championship.
Rose bogeyed the third after two pars to fall to two-over in the Championship and almost fall out of contention. But, as usual in the U.S. Open, you’re never out of it. He didn’t par another hole until number eight, going birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey on holes four through seven. The roller coaster ride took him to even-par overall and one-under on the round. He parred the short par-four ten and bogeyed the eleventh to get back into black numbers.
He made huge birdies at twelve and thirteen to get into red figures on the Championship. After bogeys at fourteen and sixteen, Rose was still in it as Mickelson was just starting the tough final five holes. Rose collected himself and parred the long par-three seventeenth by missing right but hole high. On the tough and long 511-yard par-four eighteenth, he hit his drive in the middle of the fairway then hit a beautiful approach shot just on the fringe on the back of the green. Using a wood to get on his next shot, Rose almost holed it for birdie. He tapped in for par, then pointed to the sky in remembrance of his late father on Father’s Day.
He watched Mickelson finish up in the clubhouse with his wife and emotions still were coming over him. Lefty was at two-over going into eighteen and after leaving his approach short, it would’ve taken a chip-in to force a playoff with Rose. As his ball went past the hole, Rose was the 113th U.S. Open champion. Justin Rose won it with grace, mentioning Mickelson’s name more than his in his interviews and speech after his round. Rose should be celebrated more than Mickelson and Woods should be blamed.
Photo Credit: Rueters
2. Merion Golf Club stood the test of time. Since the historic golf course hadn’t hosted a U.S. Open since 1981, no one knew what to expect. U.S. Opens are usually known for their length, but this wasn’t like the rest. Merion measured less than 7000 yards, which is incredibly short. Most experts were predicting record-low numbers, possibly testing McIlroy’s record-setting performance two years ago at Congressional.
But Merion had other plans. The lowest any player got was four-under and the lowest the leader was after a round was three-under. With only two players under-par entering the weekend, Merion only allowed one to stay there entering Sunday. But Mickelson fell back in the final round, assuring that no one would end up under-par or even even-par. One-over sounds more like a U.S. Open winning score.
So how could such a short course do this?
Narrow fairways, U.S Open-type rough off the fairways, fast greens (even though there was rain), and bunkers that didn’t allow players to get out safely. Also, the long holes were even longer this time around. The par-five fourth was 628 yards, par-fourth fifth was 504 yards, par-three seventeenth was 246 yards, and the monster par-four 521-yard eighteenth.
Birdies at these holes basically gave you a 1.5 stroke advantage on the field. Pars were the norm, but bogeys and double bogeys were also common. Another quirk about Merion was how tight the entire course was with the neighboring community. For example, at fifteen, the out-of-bounds on the left was only a few yards off the fairway. Sergio Garcia found that out the hard way, hitting three O.B. in the first round, going on to shoot a 10 on the hole.
Yes, Phil Mickelson winning would’ve been a great story. After six second-place finishes, flying across three time zones on Wednesday, and his birthday on Sunday, all the stars seemed to be aligning for him. But the humble Justin Rose stole the show with terrific shot making and skill that ultimately are keys to becoming U.S. Open champion. Also, timely putting is always needed in majors, especially the U.S. Open.
Stop talking about Phil and Tiger and start focusing on the real headlines: Rose and Merion. The two combined for a magical weekend that brought fate and history together. He’s not a Ben Hogan or Lee Trevino, but Justin Rose is a U.S. Open champion at Merion which is nothing to forget or blow over.