Justin Rose could see all the pieces coming together in this US Open.
The sun was breaking through the clouds 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 can’t seem to win a US 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 didn't yield a single one all weekend at Merion.
"What a piece of silverware to be sitting to my right," Rose said, gazing at the shiny trophy after closing with an even-par 70. "It's 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 America’s national championship, and the first in 17 years to win a Major.
Ever since Greg Norman's memorable final-round implosion let Nick Faldo win the Masters in 1996, a generation of fine English talent has come
up short. With his seven top-3 finishes, Lee Westwood's near misses are a thing of golfing folklore. Luke Donald has also been ranked No. 1 but never come that close down the stretch in a major. Ian Poulter saves his best for the Ryder Cup, while Paul Casey’s star has fallen since his breakthrough year in 2009. Finally, Rose has given England a reason to cheer.
Mickelson extended his US 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. He holed a wedge out of deep rough for an eagle to take back the lead as he headed to the back nine.
But he flew the green with a wedge on the par-3 13th hole and made bogey on the easiest hole at Merion. He tried to hit wedge off the green on the 15th hole to give him a good shot at par, only he hit it so hard he made another bogey. And he never caught up.