The direction and trajectory of his shot looked good, but not until he walked up the fairway did Rose see that his ball had landed right beside a plaque commemorating the famous one-iron shot that Ben Hogan hit on the way to winning the U.S. Open in 1950.
“When I came over the hill and saw my ball lying in the middle of the fairway … I thought, ‘This is my moment,'" Rose recalled. “I’ve seen that Ben Hogan photograph a million times and suddenly it was me hitting from the middle of the fairway.”
His moment actually came a few minutes later, after the players chasing him -- Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan -- finished their rounds. Only then did Rose’s score of one-over-par 281 make him the champion after a grueling four days of golf at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
It was Rose’s first victory in a major and he pointed out that it came on Father’s Day, some 11 years after his dad passed away.
“For it all to work for me, on such an emotional day, I couldn’t help but look up to the heavens and think that my old dad Ken had something to do with it,” he said.
The emotions of the afternoon were very different for Mickelson, who finished in a tie for second place with Jason Day at three over. That made him runner-up for the sixth time in 23 starts at the U.S. Open.
“Heartbreak,” Mickelson said. “I mean, this is tough to swallow after coming so close. This was my best chance of all.”
Merion suited his eye and Mickelson felt like he could play aggressively –- at certain moments –- throughout the week. He had come into Sunday’s final round with a one-stroke lead at one under but slid steadily backward.
“I felt like I hit good putt after good putt that I just couldn’t get to fall,” he said. “I don’t know what I could do differently.”
The crowd had treated Mickelson like a sentimental favorite, especially after he made the effort to attend his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation on Wednesday, a day before the start of the tournament. That meant flying home to California and returning overnight, landing only a few hours before his early tee time for the first round on Thursday.
Even Rose was impressed.
“I’ve nothing but great things to say about Phil,” the winner said. “Being Father’s Day, I think he needs a great shout-out for how he handled himself as a father this week.”
Justin Rose makes clutch shots to win U.S. Open | 4:45 p.m.
This is what it took to win the 2013 U.S. Open.
A clutch wedge. A pair of birdies near the end. And a crucial par on No. 18, thanks to a deft putt with a fairway metal from just off the green.
Showing both grit and imagination, Justin Rose became a major winner by surviving the tortures of Merion Golf Club with an even-par 70 to finish at one-over-par 281, just ahead of a game but frustrated Phil Mickelson.
It was the sixth year in a row that a golfer claimed the U.S. Open for his first major. It was also the heartbreaking sixth time in 23 U.S. Opens that Mickelson had finished as runner-up. He finished in a tie for second with Jason Day at three over.
The golfer known as “Lefty” had started the day in first place, the only player under par, but slipped slowly back as the day wore on.
Nothing was going to come easily at Merion. Not in a tournament filled with wind, rain, tight fairways, punishing rough and deceptive greens.