The Loop

Justin Rose was ready at 'moment's' notice

June 17, 2013

From the June 17 edition of Golf World Monday:

As he prepared last week at Lake Nona for the 113th U.S. Open, Justin Rose did more than beat balls, work out and review his game plan for Merion. He watched a YouTube download of "The Empire Strikes Back." The scene that sport psychologist Gio Valiante wanted Rose to absorb was Yoda's famous discussion with Luke Skywalker. "I wanted him to know he was ready," Valiante said Sunday from his home in Orlando. "That he was finally mature enough to come into his own."


Rose proved ready, willing and able for the challenge not only of Merion, but also of Phil Mickelson, the star-crossed U.S. Open hero who once again finished second -- for a record sixth time.

Nothing got in the way of Rose's two-stroke victory. Not the karma of Phil's flying home for his daughter's middleschool graduation. Not the hole-out by Mickelson on the 10th hole or the Philadelphia fans who wanted Lefty to win not only on Father's Day, but his 43rd birthday.

"If anybody deserves to do it, Justin does," said Tony Jacklin, who 43 years ago was the last English golfer to win the U.S. Open. "He showed his true colors." Rose, 32, had been trending toward this, starting with wins at Jack Nicklaus' tournament (the Memorial) and Tiger Woods' tournament (AT&T National) in 2010, a FedEx Cup playoff event (BMW Championship) in 2011 and a World Golf Championships event (Cadillac Championship) in '12.

Last September he proved to himself he could make pressure putts by beating Mickelson in a pivotal Ryder Cup singles match. Two weeks later he knocked off Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood in succession to win the World Golf Final in Turkey.

"Adam Scott sent me a fantastic message after he won the Masters saying, 'Your time is coming soon,' '' Rose said. "He's a wise man."

The consensus is that Rose is also a good man, as attested both by Jacklin and Nick Faldo, the last Englishman to win a major. Just two weeks ago Faldo had lunch with Rose in the Muirfield Village clubhouse. Faldo came away thinking Rose had everything right in his life. "He's a classy guy," said Faldo. "No matter how many times he got knocked down, he still had self-belief."

The reference was not only to 21 straight missed cuts at the start of his professional career, but also the loss of his father, Ken, to leukemia, 11 years ago. For seven years Rose had no wins on the PGA Tour. Now he has five quality wins in four years. The only question remaining was whether he was competitively tough enough to close out a major and that was answered by the way he played the 72nd hole yesterday.

"It was Hoganesque," said Colin Montgomerie. From just right of the Ben Hogan plaque, Rose rose to the occasion and hit the type of shot into the 18th green that, historically speaking, will define his career. Even more than the hole-out at Birkdale 15 years ago, even more than the reaction to the putts that beat Mickelson at Medinah.

"I thought this is my moment," Rose said. "I saw the photo a million times and suddenly it was me. I'm just so glad it worked out."

Ready are you, Justin Rose? Ready he was.