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Rose breaks through Day superb at Merion

(Photo: USGA)
Fifteen years after turning professional and with 14 worldwide victories and six top ten major championship finishes since to his credit, 32 year old Englishman Justin Rose has become the first Englishman to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin's victory in 1970.

Rose today produced a final round of 70 and despite two bogeys over Merion Golf Club's amazingly difficult closing stretch of five holes he had done enough to win by two over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day and by four over Jason Dufner, Ernie Els, Billy Horschel and Hunter Mahan.

For Rose it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and ther occasional childhood dream. "Yeah, I've been striving my whole life really to win a major championship. I've holed a putt to win a major championship hundred of thousands of times on the putting green at home. And preparing for this tournament, I dream about the moment of having a putt to win. Pretty happy it was a two"‘incher on the last.

"But that's as a professional golfer, I mean this is the pinnacle of the game, winning major championships, and to win the United States Open Championship is, I guess in a way, very fitting of how my game has been the last couple of years.

"Last year leading greens in regulation and this year sort of being No. 1, I think, in total driving coming into the week. I felt like this tournament really began to be on my radar as possibly the one major championship that would suit me the most. I had always felt good at Augusta, always dreamed about winning The Open Championship, but I thought this one actually might have been my best chance.

"I really targeted Merion. Philadelphia's been a good town to me and certainly a great town for my caddie too. So I just love it when a plan comes together. It's kind of how this week felt, to be honest with you."

Rose took an immediate liking to Merion Golf Club from the moment he first set eyes on her.

"This golf club is steeped in history," he said after his victory. "That really sort of hit home when I came here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, last week. I was able to appreciate this golf course in the quiet moments, when there was nobody around, when there weren't thousands of people here for the championship. And that's when I did fall in love with the golf course. Trevino says, "Fell in love with a girl named Merion, just didn't know her last name." I've been sort of joking about that all week.

"I don't think anybody expected this golf course to hold up the way it did. I certainly didn't buy into the 62s and 14"‘under, but I figured that maybe 4"‘, 5"‘, 6"‘under par would be the winning total. But it surprised everybody. And I'm just glad I was kind of the last man standing."

Rose first took a share of the lead when he birdied the 6th and 7th holes to be at even par and at that point was tied in the lead with Mahan, one ahead of Day and two ahead of Mickelson.

As could be expected on this most sensational of US Open layouts nothing was ever going to be over until it was over but other than for a brief period when Mickelson holed out for eagle at the 10th Rose would lead or share the lead for the remainder of the round.

Rose had fallen one behind when Mickelson produced his magic at the 10th but soon after he hit a great approach to the 12th and holed from short range to rejoin the lead with Mickelson at even par. He regained the outright lead with a 25 foot birdie putt at the 13th and although he would find the trap at the 14th and take bogey and three putt the 16th for yet another he was not alone in making mistakes over Merion's notorious finishing stretch.

Desperately needing two pars at the 17th and 18th Rose was equal to the task producing two great iron shots when his quest for greatness depended on it.

When he walked from the 18th green, perhaps still in a state of shock, Rose was one ahead of Mickelson but Mickelson being Mickelson there was still the chance of a playoff. The American missed from long range at the 17th and then when he needed to find the fairway at the 72nd hole as much as he had back at Winged Foot in 2006, he missed and was left with just too much to do. The end result was a bogey and he fell into a share of second place with Day.

For Mickelson it was his 6th runner-up finish in 23 starts at the US Open and might well go down as the hardest to take. When asked after his round if this was the hardest to digest of the those six Mickelson responded; "Very possibly, yeah. I would say it very well could be. I think this was my best chance.

"I think that the way that I was playing heading in, the position I was in and the way I love the golf course. It gave me chances to make birdies. I didn't really make any, but there were opportunity after opportunity, after you get by the 6th hole. And even the 6th hole, I had a great look at it.

"But this one's probably the toughest for me, 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.

Day had finished in the group ahead of Rose and Donald and once again his capacity to handle the big stage was evident. With three previous top three finishes in just ten major championship starts Day had already proven the big stage held few fears for him.

When Day holed a 12 footer at the 8th for birdie and another from longer range at the 10th he had a share of the lead with Mahan and Rose but when his approach at the 11th found the water he dropped out of the lead. To his credit however he kept fighting to the end and hit one or two putts that looked all over as if they might find the bottom of the cup but did not.

When he missed from 5 feet for par at the last Day's one remote chance was gone but when Mickelson bogeyed the last the Queenslander had a share of or been placed second outright for the third time in major championship golf and further confirmed that a breakthrough major championship is now just a matter of time.

"I was very happy with how I handled myself today," said Day after his round. "I think I have moved in the right direction with experience. When I woke up this morning, I was very calm. It just felt right. I played some nice golf. Hit a lot of good quality shots. It's good to see Rosie on top. And I know that he played very well today and he deserves it.

"I think I've just got to keep putting myself in position to win. And I feel that my game is in a really good spot right now. I'm doing the right things. I'm doing the little things that count. I've been close so many times now in Majors, especially at a young age, which is nice. And you've got to understand that Scotty is in his young 30s and same with Rosie, I guess. I'm still 25. I turn 26 at the end of the year. I've got plenty of Majors to play in and hopefully I can keep doing the same as I'm doing, and hopefully win one soon."

Day's record in ten completed major championships sees three runner-up finishes, one third place and one 10th against his name.

We can now strike off Justin Rose's name on that list of the best players not to have won a major championship. He was the 5th ranked golfer in the world heading into this week but with those ranked ahead of him faltering badly at Merion he will move to number three behind McIlory and Woods, moving past Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar in the process.

Next best of the Australians after Day was yet another Queenslander in John Senden who after a promising start to the event battled over the weekend. He did well to recover from a horror start to today's final round when he dropped three shots at the 5th and 6th holes before bogeys at the 17th and 18th cost him not only a much higher finish but the chance of a guaranteed place in next year's field.

It may be that Senden gets in via other means but his week overall was good and continues his improvement in major championship golf.

Merion and Justin Rose will now both be linked forever, both given and taking the chance to highlight their respective qualities in one of the greatest and most scrutinised of golfing examinations.

Both passed with flying colours and after so long away from major championship limelight it would appear it might not be so long before both are seen again.

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