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 on 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 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 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.
“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 was equipped with 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.