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 captured his first major championship Sunday with remarkable calm and three pure shots on the punishing closing holes at Merion. A par on the 18th hole gave him an even-par 70, and that was good enough to become the first Englishman in 43 years to win America’s national championship.
Rose hit a 5-iron to the first cut of rough, pin-high on the 17th, for an easy par. He smashed the most important tee shot of his career down the middle on the final hole, about 10 yards short of the famous Ben Hogan plaque. And his approach rolled near the pin and settled against the collar of the green.
“When I came over the hill and saw my ball laying in the fairway, I thought, ‘This is my moment.’ It was me hitting from the middle of the fairway,” Rose said.
As usual, someone’s big moment in the U.S. Open came at Mickelson’s expense.
Rose was in the scoring area a half-mile from the grandstands behind the 18th green where the fans began to chant, “Let’s go, Phil!” as Mickelson paced off a last-ditch effort to force a playoff. It was a long shot — the 18th hole didn’t yield a single birdie all weekend. From about 40 yards away, Mickelson’s chip for birdie raced by the cup, securing Rose’s victory.
Mickelson, already in the U.S. Open record book with five second-place finishes, added another that will hurt as much any of them.
Sunday was his 43rd birthday. It was the first time he had the outright lead going into the last day. His week began with a cross-country trip home to San Diego to watch his oldest daughter graduate from the eighth grade, returning just three hours before his tee time on Thursday. This was the same daughter born the day after his first runner-up finish in 1999.
All the stars were aligned. None of the putts fell in.
What hurt Mickelson even more was a wedge from about 121 yards on the 15th hole. It should have given him a good look at birdie, but it came up so short that Mickelson’s best chance was to use one of his five wedges to chip from the front of the green. He hit that one too far, 25 feet by the hole, and the bogey wound up costing him a chance at the major he covets.
Mickelson wound up with a bogey on the 18th for a 74 and tied for second with Jason Day, who closed with a 71.
“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.”