Justin Rose out-duels Mickelson to capture US Open title

Justin Rose of England posing with the trophy after winning the US Open at Merion Golf Club on Sunday. — AFP

JUSTIN Rose became the first Englishman to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970 with a tension-packed par-70 final round on Sunday that delivered his long-sought first Major title.

Rose, who also became England’s first Major champion since Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters, finished 72 holes on one-over 281 to defeat US star Phil Mickelson and Australian Jason Day by two strokes at formidable Merion Golf club.

Rose, a 32-year-old who was born in South Africa, clung to a one-shot lead when he put his 18th-hole tee shot in the fairway near a plaque where legend Ben Hogan hit a famed one-iron shot to seal a 1950 US Open victory at Merion.

“When I saw my shot lying in the fairway, I thought, ‘This is my moment’,” Rose said. “I’ve seen the Hogan photograph a million times and now it was me hitting the shot. I hit a two-iron into the green and it all worked out.”

The ball rolled to the back edge of the green and Rose used a hybrid to knock the ball an inch from the cup and tapped in for par to take the clubhouse lead, although his triumph was not yet secure.

Mickelson, the three-time Masters champion who sought his first US Open title after five runner-up efforts, came to 18 needing a birdie on his 43rd birthday to force an 18-hole Monday playoff with Rose.

No player in the third or fourth rounds had managed a birdie at the fiendish finishing hole and the US left-hander did not help his chances when his tee shot found the left rough and his approach was short of the elevated green.

When Mickelson’s third shot sped inches to the right of the cup, Rose had his long-sought win in his 37th Major start and on Father’s Day.

“For it all to work out for me, it was such an emotional day, I couldn’t help but look up at the heavens and think my old dad had something to do with it,” Rose said.

Rose had received an encouraging and prophetic e-mail message from pal Adam Scott after the Aussie won his first Major title two months ago at the Masters, saying, “Your time is coming soon.” It could not have come any sooner.

“He is a wise man,” Rose said.

Rose, 32, produced his best prior Major finish of third at last year’s PGA Championship, although he might have been best known for his share of fourth at the 1998 British Open as a teen amateur.

Reigning British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa shared fourth on 285 with Americans Jason Dufner, Billy Horschel and Hunter Mahan. England’s Luke Donald and American Steve Stricker shared eighth on 286.

The back-nine title hunt came down to Mickelson, Rose, Day and Mahan.

Rose missed a 13-foot par putt at the 16th and fell into a share of the lead at one-over with Mickelson and Mahan with Day only one shot back.

At the 15th, Mickelson botched a wedge and he and Mahan each missed long par putts. Mickelson made a two-footer for bogey but Mahan missed from three feet and made double bogey.

Day, the 2011 US Open and Masters runner-up, missed a four-footer for par at the 18th and that left him with a final-round 71 in the clubhouse on 283, level with Mahan but one back of Mickelson and two adrift of Rose.

Mahan took a bogey at 17 and only Mickelson could deny Rose from there, but instead, he found only heartache.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods fired a 74 to finish on 13-over 293 – his worst 72-hole US Open score over par as a professional – and shared 32nd.

“It was a very good week overall,” Woods said. “I’m just sorry the golf was not where I would have liked it to be.” — AFP

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