US Open golf: What we learned from MerionJune, 2013
Rose blooms, Lefty heartbreak and Tiger still stuck on 14
About the win
– Rose’s eighth US Open start, his previous best (T5) coming in his debut in 2003
– Rose’s 37th Major start, his 3rd at Kiawah last year his previous best
– ‘Overseas’ players have now won three of the last four US Opens and the last four Majors
– Rose is the new World No 3 and the first Englishman since Tony Jacklin in 1970 to win a US Open. Nick Faldo was the last Englishman to win a Major in 1996
– Rose went through the week without making a double bogey. His worst round was a 71
Rose plan comes together
Last year Justin Rose topped the Greens in Regulation category, this year he is leading the Total Driving.
If both were needed anywhere it would be Merion’s 18th hole. Just 11 birdies had been recorded at the toughest hole on the course all week and none over the last two days.
Rose striped his drive right down the middle alongside Ben Hogan’s plaque and then hit the sweetest of 4-irons, which might not have registered on the GIR stats, but almost certainly secured the four.
While Rose might not have contended in too many Majors the layer of self-confidence was there from Ryder Cups and four previous wins in the States. Rose has said that he hadn’t truly got the 21 successive missed cuts at the start of his career out of his system until 2010.
The other slight doubt was over his putting on the biggest stage, not any more.
Merion a very welcome break from the norm
The suspicion is that we won’t be returning to Merion for another US Open having had to wait 32 years since the last one.
The property isn’t big enough to stage such an event, the practice ground is a 15-minute drive away and there is nowhere else for the East Course to grow.
Which is all such a pity. While the USGA occasionally messed up with par 3s that occasionally required your longest club much of this week was magical. Holes of around 350 yards which played over their par, and greens which continued to befuddle players who are more used to holing everything from inside 10 feet.
On the upside we had a winning score (+1) of just one shot more than the USGA’s ideal and a leaderboard where any one of the top 10 would have been viewed as a worthy winner.
‘This was my best chance of all of them’ – Phil Mickelson
A birthday to forget for Phil
Phil Mickelson has now finished runner-up six times but this was the first time that he arrived on Sunday with a lead.
It was the same daughter who was born the day after his first second place in 1999 who he flew home to see graduate from eighth grade on the eve of the tournament.
A wedge shot to the 10th dropped but little else did, Mickelson hit more greens than any other player at Merion but the putts didn’t. He only had nine birdies (and that eagle) by the end of the week – Donald, Rose and Day each had 15.
“Heartbreak,” the 43-year-old said. “This is tough to swallow after coming so close. This was my best chance of all of them. I had a golf course I really liked. I felt this was as good an opportunity as you could ask for. It really hurts.”
Tiger’s blank now up to five years
Supposedly this was to be Tiger’s week with not much call for the driver. The only thing he came away with was his equal worst 72-hole score in a Major to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his last win.
He was in the hunt after two days but 10 over at the weekend, his worst closing efforts in the big four, saw him finish in a tie for 32nd. He didn’t break par in any round.
The never-ending questions surrounding his fall-out with Sergio won’t have helped, likewise a sore left elbow that he first hurt at the Players where he won. But the real problems at Merion came on the greens, particularly around the hole – the World No 1 blamed the grain on the creeping bent grass.
The search goes on for No 15 with Muirfield and Oak Hill setting the final two stages and neither of them previous happy hunting grounds for Woods.