Justin Rose reflects on his week of destiny at Merion

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Justin Rose reflects on his week of destiny at the 2013 US Open ahead of defending his title at Pinehurst No.2

All the talk at the start of the week at Merion was whether we would have our first 62 in a Major.

Supposedly, with a course under 7,000 yards, a string of short 4s and a par of 70, we would see a host of low scores.

Come the end of the second round only Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel were under par. 

Come Saturday night only Mickelson was. 

Justin Rose had been in red figures but closed with a pair of bogeys, disconcerting and frustrating at the time but, in hindsight, a stroke of luck.

Rose would spend his Father’s Day Sunday alongside his compatriot Luke Donald and two groups back from the hullabaloo of Mickelson’s bid for a US Open.

Come Sunday night nobody finished under par but Rose’s magnificent 70 was two clear of the field. 

In a fitting conclusion, the Englishman played the 4 iron of his life, at the same hole as Ben Hogan’s iconic 1 iron and just a few yards from the great man’s plaque, to become the first Englishman since Tony Jacklin in 1970 to win the US Open.

One year on, he reflects on his Major moment at Merion.

The pairing with Donald…

“I never try to get too excited or disappointed with my pairing because I never want to let that affect my performance. 

“Saying that, I was excited to play with Luke. Our caddies are very good friends. 

“But, again, sometimes with that, it can create maybe not the right environment in which to play your best.

“When it gets to the final stages of a Major, it almost doesn’t matter who you’re playing with.

“But we had some unique circumstances. I think it was a perfect situation to be paired two groups back, slightly removed from the happy birthday songs and the Phil kind of crowd as well.

“It was, I think, a lot for that grouping to deal with. There was a lot of energy in that group, and that can be a fantastic thing if your game starts going well and you can feed off it.

“But it can be difficult to deal with if you’re struggling to get your round going.”

The challenge of Merion…

“One of the local caddies described it as the first six holes are drama, the second six holes are comedy and the last six holes are tragedy. It’s like a good theatrical play.
Majors are a test of what’s inside more than your golf game, too, and I think that’s what it’s all about. “And that in a sense was the way I framed up the golf course in my mind. Just trying to get off to a solid start. Trying to gain a little bit of ground in the middle and then hang on. 

“So very rarely do you get a golf course that has distinct feels through stretches of holes like that. 

“Maybe two over par is level par for the last five holes. I played them in even par and that was the difference.”

The Major mindset…

“I don’t think you can prepare for the feelings really by just talking to other guys. It has to come from within, too. 

“Majors are a test of what’s inside more than your golf game, too, and I think that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s about dealing with your own inner workings of your mind and they are such a big deal, but the key is to not make them such a big deal in the moment when you have the chance to win it. 

“That’s the challenge that a lot of us face out there, and that’s what I felt like I overcame at Merion. 

“I felt like I stayed pretty cool and calm for the most part. Of course I was nervous and everything like that, but I remained sort of in control of my emotions. 

“Obviously it’s easier said than done, but that’s definitely the formula I feel will work well for me in the future.”

The 18th hole…

“It’s hard not to play Merion and envisage yourself hitting the shot that Hogan did. And even in the moment that was not lost on me. 

“When I walked over the hill and saw my drive sitting perfectly in the middle of the fairway, with the sun coming out, it was kind of almost fitting. And I just felt like at that point it was a good iron shot on to the green, two putts, like Hogan did, and possibly win.

“There’s definitely some deep breathing going on. You sort of want to bring yourself back into the moment. I worked really hard on my rhythm. That’s one thing that can get off when you get a bit tight under pressure, you can often get a little bit quick. 

“And that’s as simple as I kept it. And then you just close your eyes and you make a swing and you sort of hope to see it going down the fairway.  

“You’ve got to make a free swing; if you get tight, you start to steer it a little bit, that doesn’t work either. So I felt like I did myself justice and probably put enough of a good swing where Ben Hogan might have thought it was a decent shot too.”

Becoming a winner…

“There have been times in my career where I found it hard to close out tournaments, and I think a lot of that goes back to that sort of scar tissue of early in my career. 

“I had a two-win season on the PGA TOUR in 2010 and that was sort of when I first felt like I was over the start to my pro career and I could kind of move on and believe in myself and be confident and trust myself under pressure.”

The Major champion perks…

“I do a ‘boys trip’ every year. It’s a group of 10 of my oldest friends and we all get together once a year and play a bit of golf, more so just catch up with one another. 

“They all live in England for the most part. Being US Open champion, I felt I could call in a couple more favours than I would typically and we played some great tracks. 

“We played Pine Valley and went back to Merion. So to have the opportunity to bring 10 of my best friends to Merion and play a round was very special.”

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