by Jeff Skinner
Bobby Jones once said,” Nobody ever wins an Open. Everybody else just loses it.” That was the theme at Merion Country Club today as Justin Rose claimed his first major win at the 113th U.S. Open. Rose’s path to this championship wasn’t a march to victory but more like a survival of the fittest.
By the time the leaders got on the course Merion had raised its defenses and birdies were few and bogeys so prevalent that a par seemed to earn a stroke on the field. Phil Mickelson, Billy Horschel, Steve Stricker and Luke Donald all had difficulty early in their rounds with Mickelson the only one able to bounce back and contend down the stretch. Hunter Mahan and Jason Day fared well early but faded on the closing holes to end their chance for their first major win.
Of the leaders, only the 32 year old Rose could balance his bogeys with an equal number of birdies to finish the day with that traditional score of choice at the Open, par. Rose’s even par 70 was enough to force Mickelson to have to birdie the all too difficult 18th hole and when his third shot rolled well past the hole Rose had survived the toughest test in golf.
The pre-tournament talk was that the pros would eat up the short Merion course that last held an Open in 1981. When rain soaked the course for days prior there was fear that the course would be defenseless. That couldn’t be further from what transpired at the old, classic course.
Rose’s winning score of one over par is proof that Merion is more than most can handle. The course took on the rain and the best players in the world and came out looking like the stern test of golf that her members had said she would be.
Rose said he loved the course and it’s obvious why. This is the culmination of a dream he and his father shared while his dad taught him the game as a youngster. Rose turned pro at 17 and had very little success early as a professional missing 21 straights cuts. He endured and worked on his craft and has developed into one of the world’s top players.
As he finished on eighteen he looked skyward and fought back tears thinking of his dad who passed away in 2002. Winning an Open is special, winning an Open on Father’s Day sometimes is too much for these sons. Rose said, “I couldn’t help but look up at the heavens and think my old man Ken had something to do with it.”
He has come a long way from that 17 year old kid. And both he and his dad knew he would.