Sport Golf

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Rose blooms as Mickelson comes up short again

JUSTIN ROSE survived a rollercoaster final round to win his first Major title at the US Open and inflict further misery on Phil Mickelson.

Rose, who birdied the last two holes to beat Mickelson in the singles in last year's Ryder Cup 'Miracle at Medinah', carded a closing 70 at Merion to condemn Mickelson to his sixth runners-up finish in the event – and on his 43rd birthday as well.

Tony Jacklin was the last Englishman to win the US Open in 1970 – 10 years before Rose was born – while Nick Faldo was the last to win a Major in the 1996 US Masters.

But Rose had said after the second round that he knew "deep down" he could win a Major and held his nerve on a dramatic final day, carding five birdies and five bogeys to finish one-over-par.

The 32-year-old raised his fingers to the sky after tapping in for par on the last, a tribute to his father Ken, a massive influence on his career, who died from leukaemia in 2002.

"What a day," an emotional Rose said. "I don't know what to say, I'm thrilled. I just kept telling myself that (making bogeys) is what everyone is doing.

"You saw me look to the heavens with it being Father's Day – I was just trying to remember my dad."

Mickelson's closing 74 saw him finish two shots behind Rose in a share of second with Australian Jason Day (71), with Jason Dufner, Open champion Ernie Els, Billy Horschel and Hunter Mahan two shots further back.


Luke Donald, who played with Rose, recovered from a front nine of 42 – his tee shot to the third having hit a female volunteer – to come home in 33 and finish alongside Steve Stricker on six-over. Stricker hit two shots out of bounds, the second of them a dreaded shank, to take eight on the par-five second.

Rose began the day two shots off the lead held by Mickelson, but, with Merion playing havoc with the leading groups, an outward nine containing three birdies and two bogeys was enough to give him a one-shot lead.

A three-putt bogey on the 11th dropped Rose back alongside Mahan before Mickelson reignited his challenge for a fifth Major title with a moment of brilliance.

The left-hander, who flew home to California on Monday and attended his daughter's eighth-grade graduation on Wednesday evening before flying back overnight for a 7:11am start on Thursday, had three-putted the third and fifth for double bogeys and reached the turn in 39.

And he then missed the fairway on the short par-four 10th – ranked the second easiest all week – only to hole his approach from the rough from 76 yards for an eagle to jump back to the top of the leaderboard.

Rose must have heard the enormous roar from the crowds but promptly hit his second shot to the 12th to two feet for birdie and then holed from 20ft for another at the 13th to reclaim the lead before the forecast rain arrived to make life even more difficult as he began the daunting closing stretch.

The last five holes were all ranked among the nine toughest for the week, with the 18th the hardest at an average of 4.71. The good news for Mickelson was that he had played that stretch in one-under-par; the bad news for Rose was that he had done so in six-over.

The 14th duly cost Rose a shot when he found a greenside bunker with his approach as the heaviest spell of rain came down, but Mickelson – carrying five wedges and no driver – used one of those wedges to fire his tee shot on the 13th over the green and drop a shot.

Rose then charged his birdie putt on the 16th well past the hole and missed the return to drop back into a three-way tie, only for Mickelson to bogey the 15th having opted to chip from on the green after being left with an awkward putt through the fringe.

Mahan took six on the same hole to fall two behind and Rose safely parred the 17th to head to the 18th tee with a one-shot lead over Mickelson and Day, who then bogeyed the last.

After a perfect drive, Rose's approach from 229 yards rolled past the flag and just on to the back fringe, from where he played a superb shot with a fairway wood that stopped agonisingly on the edge of the hole.

However, the tap-in par was good enough to secure a superb win as Mickelson failed to chip in for the birdie he needed to force a play-off.

Irish Independent

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