ARDMORE, Pa. — Justin Rose received a text message this week telling him to “go out and be the man your dad taught you to be.” Even before he had won the U.S. Open on Sunday at Merion, Rose pointed skyward as a nod to his late father and coach, Ken.
“The look up to the heavens was absolutely for my dad,” Rose said. “Father’s Day was not lost on me today. You don’t have opportunities to really dedicate a win to someone you love. And today was about him.”
Rose shot an even-par 70 Sunday, capping it with one of the loveliest pars he ever has made, to win the U.S. Open by two shots over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. The 32-year-old became the first English player to win the U.S. Open in 43 years and shared the experience with the crowd, mingling with it while holding the U.S. Open trophy in one hand and one of Merion’s trademark wicker-basket flagsticks in the other.
Rose’s elation stood in stark contrast to Mickelson’s heartbreak, a word he used again Sunday to describe his sixth runner-up finish in this championship. Mickelson’s 4-over 74, his highest round of the week, appeared to prod him toward that most difficult of resignations.
If a one-shot Sunday lead, a golf course he loved and a system he trusted weren’t enough to produce the breakthrough victory, what will be?
“This one’s probably the toughest for me,” he said, “because at 43, and coming so close five times, it would have changed the way I look at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record. Except I just keep feeling heartbreak.”
For Rose, the victory might persuade him to buy a house on Philadelphia’s Main Line. Three years ago he won the AT&T National at nearby Aronimink.
Rose played Merion without a double bogey this week while tying Day and Luke Donald for the most birdies (15). Rose made back-to-back birdies twice Sunday, including at Nos. 12 and 13 to be briefly the only player under par. But it was a par that ultimately won him the championship.
Rose took a one-shot lead to the 18th hole, which yielded no birdies on the weekend. He split the fairway with his tee shot, which landed near a plaque commemorating Ben Hogan’s 1-iron shot that helped him win the 1950 U.S. Open.
Rose hit 4-iron to the back of the green and nearly holed a chip with a fairway wood. After tapping in for par, Rose wiped away a tear, then waited in the clubhouse, where he nervously looked at Merion’s historic collection of memorabilia.
“That (Hogan) image is kind of hard to escape,” Rose said. “This was my turn to kind of have that iconic moment. And I hit a good 4-iron. I felt I did it justice.”
Mickelson, who heard choruses of “Happy Birthday” as he turned 43 on Sunday, could have made this a coronation early. But he lipped out a birdie putt at the first hole, missed a 4-footer for birdie at No. 2 and made a three-putt double bogey at the third.
A second double bogey at the fifth could have smothered his chances. Instead, Mickelson followed five holes later with the shot of the day to regain the lead.
With 75 yards and a wedge in hand, Mickelson holed a shot from a fluffy lie in the rough to make eagle and return to even par. With birdie opportunities coming on the next three holes, he expected that to be a launching pad.
It wasn’t. At the 121-yard 13th, which 24 players birdied Sunday, Mickelson overcooked a wedge into the back rough and made bogey.
Two holes later, Mickelson hit another poor wedge, coming up short this time, and made bogey after trying a desperate chip from the green.
“Those wedge shots on 13 and 15,” Mickelson said, “are the two I’ll look back on.”