Sport Golf

Thursday 14 December 2017

Rose basks in the glow of success as his journey of 'ups and downs' reaches perfect end

Paul Hayward in Philadelphia

From boy wonder to last man standing is a journey few complete. But Justin Rose has made it all the way from the precocity of Royal Birkdale 15 years ago through collapse and recovery to become the first English US Open champion since Tony Jacklin in 1970. Hold the front page: life can be kind to those who deserve it.

Displaying consummate grace under pressure on the 18th hole made famous by Ben Hogan in 1950, Rose (32) delivered on the show­stopping promise of his fourth-place finish as a 17-year-old amateur in the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale, where he chipped in at the 18th and strode gawkily on to the green to receive the love of the crowd.

That day the TV camera picked out his father Ken, whose death four years later was a touchstone in Rose's inspiring victory at Merion on Sunday.

"At times it feels 25 years since Birkdale, and other times it feels like it was just yesterday. There's a lot of water under the bridge," Rose said.

"I sort of announced myself on the golfing scene probably before I was ready to handle it. Golf can be a cruel game. And definitely I have had the ups and downs, but I think that ultimately it's made me stronger and able to handle situations like today."

The "downs" he was referring to were chiefly 21 missed cuts after he rushed into the professional ranks and dumped the young farmer look he had worn at Birkdale.

"When I was missing 21 cuts in a row, I mean I was just trying to not fade away, really," he admitted. "I just didn't want to be known as a one-hit wonder, a flash in the pan.

"I believed in myself inherently. Deep down I always knew I had a talent to play the game. And I simply thought that if I put talent and hard work together, surely it will work out in the end." Both this season's Majors have featured talented golfers wriggling free from the dead hand of bad experiences.

Adam Scott won the Masters after blowing his chance in last year's British Open and Rose, a close friend, affirmed the value of perseverance and faith for those who begin careers spectacularly but lose their way when youth's audacity expires.

Rose said: "It just takes time to heal. I've never really talked about it because you don't want to admit to that being the case, but I think when you've got past something you can talk openly about it. In the moment like this, I can talk about how I feel I've come full circle confidence-wise and game development-wise.

"This is a journey. This is just such a satisfying feeling. And it goes back 20, 30 years for me of dreaming, of hoping, of practising, of calloused hands.

"This could be the most satisfying, because there's no one helping you along the way. You've had to do it the hard way. You've had to do it yourself."

The 2002 Dunhill Championship was his breakthrough victory but only in 2010 with his wins in the Memorial and AT&T tournaments did he establish himself as an American tour heavyweight.

"I've been striving my whole life really to win a Major championship," he said. "I've holed a putt to win a Major championship hundreds of thousands of times on the putting green at home.

"Preparing for this tournament, I dreamt about the moment of having a putt to win. I'm pretty happy it was a two-incher on the last. And I'm just glad I was the last man standing.

"I think my dad always believed I was capable of this," he said.

"When he was close to passing away, he kind of told my mum: 'Don't worry, Justin will be okay. He'll know what to do'." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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