U.S. Open

U.S. Open again closed to Phil Mickelson as Justin Rose wins

dscott@charlotteobserver.comJune 17, 2013 

— A U.S. Open championship that seemed pre-ordained for Phil Mickelson ultimately belonged to Justin Rose.

Rose became the first Englishman in 43 years to win the Open, shooting an even-par 70 Sunday at Merion Golf Club for a four-day total of 281 – just 1 over par for the tournament.

But it was enough to hold off Jason Day and Mickelson by two strokes on a stingy course that ultimately permitted nothing but black numbers on its leaderboard.

Tied for fourth at 5-over were Jason Dufner (who shot a 3-under 67 Sunday), Ernie Els, Billy Horschel and Hunter Mahan.

The story of the tournament is Rose, 33, who won a major for the first time. Birdies on the 12th and 13th holes allowed him to take the lead on an afternoon that featured a brief rain shower – nothing new to the week at Merion – and a huge doses of drama that also included Mickelson and Day.

“This is a moment I can look back on and say that childhood dreams come true,” said Rose.

But the tournament’s other tale involved Mickelson, who has now finished second in the country’s national championship a record six times. Playing on his 43rd birthday, the hugely popular Mickelson began the day one stroke in the lead. This it seemed might be his year at the Open.

When Mickelson eagled the par-4 10th – holing his approach from 75 yards – he regained the lead from Rose, who had just three-putted No.11. Until that time, the lead was being hot-potatoed between Mickelson, Rose and Mahan (who had started the day one stroke behind Mickelson).

“It was a critical juncture there, critical shot,” said Mickelson. “I would have been happy to take birdie there. But to see that ball go in, I really thought that I was in a good position.”

But Mickelson couldn’t make that good fortune stick, playing Nos. 13 and 15 poorly, making bogey on both.

“Those are the two bad shots of the day that I’ll look back on where I let it go,” said Mickelson.

He missed an 8-foot putt for birdie on No. 16. By the time he got to the 17th tee, he was a shot behind Rose and needed a birdie on either of the final two holes. That didn’t happen. A par on 17 and a bogey after driving into the left rough on No. 18 finished Mickelson’s chances.

Rose was already in the clubhouse, watching on television as Mickelson wrapped up. Rose had finished with a par on No.18, hitting his approach from the middle of the fairway, near the spot where Ben Hogan struck his famous 1-iron in the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, allowing him to get into a playoff that he would win the next day.

“That wasn’t lost on me,” said Rose.

Rose hit a 3-wood onto the green and past the hole, then used the same club out of the fringe to get to within 2 inches of the cup. He tapped it in, then pointed to the sky. That, on Father’s Day, was to Rose’s father, Ken, who died of leukemia in 2002.

Rose’s victory might finally be delivering on the potential he showed in 1998 when, as an amateur, he finished tied for fourth at the British Open. After turning pro the next day, Rose had to wait until 2010 to win his first tournament on American soil.

Now, he’s the first Englishman since Tony Jacklin in 1970 to win the U.S. Open and the first since Nick Faldo in 1996 to win a major championship.

And Mickelson must wait another long year to try again at the U.S. Open. The 2014 U.S. Open will be played in Pinehurst on Pinehurst No. 2, the same course where Mickelson finished second to Payne Stewart on another Father’s Day in 1999.

“This one’s probably the toughest for me,” said Mickelson. “Because at 43 and coming so close five times, it would have changed way I look at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record. Except I just keep feeling heartbreak.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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