Justin Rose became the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open in 43 years by holding on for a two-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson, who was the golf tournament’s runner-up for a record-extending sixth time.
The 32-year-old Rose is the first golfer from England to win the season’s second major championship since Tony Jacklin’s seven-stroke victory in 1970. The most recent player from the country to claim one of golf’s four major titles was Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters Tournament.
Rose, whose father died of cancer in 2002, looked up, kissed his hand and pointed to the sky after tapping in for par on the 18th hole to finish with a four-round total of 1-over par 281 yesterday, when the U.S. marks Father’s Day. He shot even-par 70 during the final round at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, to move past Mickelson, who closed with a 3-over 73 after taking a one-shot lead into the final round. Mickelson and Jason Day of Australia tied for second at 3-over par.
“On such an emotional day, I couldn’t help but look up to the heavens and think that my old dad Ken had something to do with it,” Rose said during the trophy presentation ceremony.
It’s the second straight year that the winning U.S. Open score was over par, with Webb Simpson capturing last year’s championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco at 1-over. It matched the highest winning score for the U.S. Open since Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy won in 2006 and 2007 with a total of 5-over-par 285.
Mickelson holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 10th hole to regain the top spot on the leaderboard. He had made double-bogeys on two of the first five holes, then bogeyed the 121-yard, par-3 13th hole when his tee shot flew over the green. He added another bogey at the par-4 15th, where his approach shot spun backward and off the green.
Rose watched the action on television from the scoring trailer as Mickelson missed a potential tying chip for birdie from off the green on the 18th hole. Mickelson, who was celebrating his 43rd birthday, made bogey on the hole to equal his second-place finishes in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009.
“Heartbreak,” Mickelson said in a televised interview. “This is tough to swallow after coming so close. This was my best chance of all of them. I felt like this was as good an opportunity as I could ask for, and to not do it hurts.”
Rose had five birdies and five bogeys yesterday after starting the day two shots behind Mickelson following rounds of 71, 69 and 71.
Rose entered the tournament ranked fifth in the world and with 25-1 odds of winning, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book, tied for seventh-best in the 156-man field. He had four previous victories on the U.S. PGA Tour, including last year’s World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship and the 2010 AT&T National, which also came in the Philadelphia area at Aronimink Golf club.
“Philadelphia has been my town,” said Rose, who received $1.44 million for the win. “I had such good support here all week. There were a lot of people in the crowd who remembered me from Aronimink and I felt like I had a lot of good will.”
Hunter Mahan tied for fourth place at 5-over par with Jason Dufner, Ernie Els and Billy Horschel.
Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, the top three players in the world rankings, never were a factor yesterday, finishing a combined 42-over par. Steve Stricker, Luke Donald and Charl Schwartzel all started the final round within two strokes of the lead and slipped out of contention early.
Stricker, who at 46 was seeking to become the oldest U.S. Open winner, played the first five holes in 5-over par. He made a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 second hole, hitting his tee shot out of bounds before shanking an approach shot into the trees right of the fairway.
Donald, formerly ranked No. 1 in the world and seeking his first major title, hit a tournament volunteer in the head with his tee shot on the 266-yard, par-3 third hole. He had five bogeys and a double-bogey over the first nine holes.
Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters winner from South Africa, opened the round with a birdie to tie Mickelson for the lead and then played the next nine holes in 8-over par.
Dufner made a final-day push with a 3-under 67 that included a triple-bogey 7 after hitting a tee shot out of bounds on the 15th hole. It was Dufner’s only blemish in a round that had six birdies.
The U.S. Golf Association’s decision to return after a 32-year absence to Merion, where Bobby Jones in 1930 became the only golfer to win four majors in the same season, was considered by some golf enthusiasts and players to be risky.
The tournament’s organizing body took an estimated $10 million loss to hold its marquee event -- and accompanying fans, sponsors and media -- at a suburban Philadelphia club that was built more than 100 years ago.
At 6,996 yards, Merion was the shortest U.S. Open venue since New York’s Shinnecock Hills played at the same yardage in 2004. With greens softened by rain for several days ahead of the tournament and during the first round, some players expected a high number of birdie chances.
Instead, a club that hosted 17 previous USGA championships -- the most of any course -- got the better of the world’s best players with deep, thick rough and fast, challenging greens. There wasn’t a single bogey-free round during the tournament, with an average score of 74.55.
Woods was the pre-tournament favorite to win his first major title since 2008. He finished 13-over and failed to break par with rounds of 73, 70, 76 and 74.
“It was a little bit of a struggle,” Woods said. “Not a lot of low scores out there, for sure.”
Sergio Garcia, who faced heckling from fans for a racial comment he’d made last month directed at Woods, finished 15-over par. He played the 14th and 15th holes in a combined 16 over -- with an 8 and a 10 on the par-4 15th -- and the other 16 holes at 1-under.
McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion and No. 2-ranked player in the world, finished 14-over par. He bent a club in frustration yesterday after hitting two balls into the water at the 11th hole, where he made a quadruple bogey.
Scott, who in April became the first Australian to win the Masters, was 15-over par with rounds of 72, 75, 73 and 75.
“There was talk of 62 earlier in the week and 4-under par winning this golf tournament,” Rose said. “I thought 6-under par would maybe be the winning total. It surprised everybody. This course held up amazingly well.”