Rose a figure of calm as chaos ensues at US Open
The putt was all of 60 feet, downhill, with a bunker no more than three or four paces past the flag.
That hazard, with its grassy top and wide-open face, was like a massive Venus Fly Trap – hungrily waiting to snap shut on any ball that wandered in the vicinity of its jaws.
The green, which had been a bright verdant all week, was wrinkling into a shade of scorched as Justin Rose eyed up his putt on the sixth and scratched his head over how to keep his scorecard intact.
Zach Johnson, meanwhile, was in the interview room – telling tales of ‘lost golf courses’ and a USGA that had once again gone too far.
It all happened so suddenly. Only a couple of hours earlier, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau had ripped round in 66.
Neither could have expected to be tied for the lead when play concluded.
Conditions, though, got very tricky, very fast. Shots were stalling in the air, falling away off greens and bouncing waist high on their way into trouble.
By the time Rose barely tickled a putt down the slope at 18, and watched it race 20 feet past, Shinnecock Hills was borderline out of control.
“I haven’t seen a golf course change that quickly,” he reflected. “I played yesterday evening and it was calm and, because of the rain earlier in the day, the greens were pretty slow.
“I was expecting it to be like this tomorrow. I am surprised it got there this quickly.”
Rose’s 73 leaves him just one back of a four-way traffic jam at the top of the leaderboard.
That he is in that position at all is because of a round of sheer obstinacy. The player many regard as one of the best ball strikers in the game couldn’t put an iron in the vicinity of a green.
By his own admission it was woeful – a succession of pulls putting him into trouble and seeing him only find the dance floor six times in the entire round.
Somehow, he reached the eighth in red figures but not even God could have kept that up as the wind blustered and the grass got very fast.
As it was, the eight one putts he recorded could still be considered something of a miracle.
Rose’s struggles, however, were far from unique. All the contenders were toiling.
Ian Poulter fell away to a 76, DJ partially rescued his round on the back nine but still shot 77, and a treble of successive bogeys harmed Henrik Stenson’s 74.
All of which leaves the Englishman, who knows he can improve, still dreaming of adding to the title he won at Merion five years ago.
“I was really happy with the way I hung in there,” he said. “It was the kind of day where you just wanted to hang around and give yourself a chance.
“It’s kind of exactly where I was going into the final round at Merion, I think I was a couple back, and that’s all you need to do for three days – give yourself a shot.”
That he certainly has done.