Teeing off on the final hole at the U.S. Open, Justin Rose figured he needed par to seal a victory.
The direction and trajectory of his shot looked good, but not until he walked up the fairway did Rose see that his ball had landed right beside a plaque commemorating the famous one-iron shot that Ben Hogan hit on the way to winning the U.S. Open in 1950.
“When I came over the hill and saw my ball lying in the middle of the fairway … I thought, ‘This is my moment,'" Rose recalled. “I’ve seen that Ben Hogan photograph a million times and suddenly it was me hitting from the middle of the fairway.”
His moment actually came a few minutes later, after the players chasing him -- Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan -- finished their rounds. Only then did Rose’s score of one-over-par 281 make him the champion after a grueling four days of golf at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
It was Rose’s first victory in a major and he pointed out that it came on Father’s Day, some 11 years after his dad passed away.
“For it all to work for me, 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,” he said.
The emotions of the afternoon were very different for Mickelson, who finished in a tie for second place with Jason Day at three over. That made him runner-up for the sixth time in 23 starts at the U.S. Open.
“Heartbreak,” Mickelson said. “I mean, this is tough to swallow after coming so close. This was my best chance of all.”
Merion suited his eye and Mickelson felt like he could play aggressively –- at certain moments –- throughout the week. He had come into Sunday’s final round with a one-stroke lead at one under but slid steadily backward.
“I felt like I hit good putt after good putt that I just couldn’t get to fall,” he said. “I don’t know what I could do differently.”
The crowd had treated Mickelson like a sentimental favorite, especially after he made the effort to attend his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation on Wednesday, a day before the start of the tournament. That meant flying home to California and returning overnight, landing only a few hours before his early tee time for the first round on Thursday.
Even Rose was impressed.
“I’ve nothing but great things to say about Phil,” the winner said. “Being Father’s Day, I think he needs a great shout-out for how he handled himself as a father this week.”
Justin Rose makes clutch shots to win U.S. Open | 4:45 p.m.
This is what it took to win the 2013 U.S. Open.
A clutch wedge. A pair of birdies near the end. And a crucial par on No. 18, thanks to a deft putt with a fairway metal from just off the green.
Showing both grit and imagination, Justin Rose became a major winner by surviving the tortures of Merion Golf Club with an even-par 70 to finish at one-over-par 281, just ahead of a game but frustrated Phil Mickelson.
It was the sixth year in a row that a golfer claimed the U.S. Open for his first major. It was also the heartbreaking sixth time in 23 U.S. Opens that Mickelson had finished as runner-up. He finished in a tie for second with Jason Day at three over.
The golfer known as “Lefty” had started the day in first place, the only player under par, but slipped slowly back as the day wore on.
Nothing was going to come easily at Merion. Not in a tournament filled with wind, rain, tight fairways, punishing rough and deceptive greens.
The weather made a brief return appearance down the back nine, a hard rain falling for 15 or so minutes. There were enough adventures down that final stretch to fill an Indiana Jones movie. Maybe two.
Rose looked to be in trouble after a bogey on No. 11, but hit a great wedge to within a few feet on No. 12.
On No. 15, Mickelson left a wedge short – “I quit on it,” he mused to his caddie – leaving him on the front few inches of the green. With a vicious side ridge in his way, he pulled a sand wedge and thinned it well past the cup, setting up a bogey.
Up ahead, at No. 16, Rose blasted an uphill putt a good 10-feet long and needed two to get back, suffering his fourth three-putt of the week.
Meanwhile, Hunter Mahan was missing too many critical shots and Day was trying to fight his way into the clubhouse at two over, thinking that score might give him a shot at a playoff. His par putt on No. 18 lipped out, leaving him at three over.
Playing two holes ahead of Mickelson, Rose figured that he needed to par the last hole. His second shot flew directly at the flag, then rolled off the back of the green, just into the chunky stuff. The Englishman pulled a fairway metal and tapped the ball to within an inch, leaving a kick-in for par.
Mickelson had seen all sides of No. 18 this week with a par, birdie and bogey. But on Sunday his three-wood off the tee missed well left and he could not recover.
Rose, watching the finish with his wife in the clubhouse, was overcome with emotion.
Justin Rose leads, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan one shot back | 3:35 p.m.
Tilting his head back, Phil Mickelson glanced skyward.
“What’s the lightning forecast?” he asked. “Is there much in the area?”
At a U.S. Open bedeviled by inclement weather, the rain and wind once again became factors on Sunday afternoon.
Moments after asking about potential thunderstorms, Mickelson watched his tee shot ride a high wind off the backside of the 13th green, leaving him with a deep lie and a treacherous flop. The result? A two-putt bogey.
The setback did not cost him too dearly, not with leader Justin Rose making bogey on a semi-shanked bunker shot at No. 14.
That left Rose at even par, Mickelson and Hunter Mahan at one over and Jason Day at two over.
At least the conditions –- and the course layout –- had provided some separation with the rest of the pack by 6:30 p.m. EDT.
The likes of Luke Donald, Billy Horschel, Rickie Fowler and Steve Stricker had fallen away, mired at five strokes back with only a puncher’s chance of making a run through Merion’s final five holes.
That stretch is built over a former quarry where large men used to bang rock from the ground. A century later, the golfers sometimes look as if they are playing with a sledgehammer, the dense rough and tricky greens causing all manner of unattractive shots.
Heavy rains appeared to wane after only 15 minutes or so, but still figured to makes things even more challenging down the home stretch.
Justin Rose leads, Phil Mickelson one back | 3:10 p.m.
Through the front nine holes at Merion Golf Club, Phil Mickelson had missed a handful of putts by a combined inch and was starting to show some frustration, hands on hips, shaking his head.
Then he decided to cut out the middle man.
On No. 10, his wedge from 76 yards hit the edge of the green, hopped right and rolled straight into the cup, giving him an eagle and a huge shot of adrenaline on a helter-skelter afternoon at the 113th U.S. Open.
Great victories are often made of such dramatic stuff, the crowd roaring as Mickelson jumped up and down, shaking his fist. (His vertical leap is measured in single-digit inches, by the way). But there was still a long way to go and he still trailed the leader, Justin Rose, who quickly responded with a birdie.
Just past 6 p.m. EDT, Rose led at one under par with Mickelson at even par. Jason Day and Hunter Mahan followed at one over.
Rose had built momentum around the turn with a two birdies and a clutch chip-in for bogey on No. 11.
Still, Mickelson fans could be optimistic, knowing their man had not eagled a hole at the U.S. Open since 2009. More important, he had played close to par on Merion’s final five holes over the past three days while Rose had struggled on that same stretch.
There was something else to think about for a tournament that suffered from bouts of nasty weather last week – the wind picked up and rain began to fall, umbrellas popping out, as the leaders moved toward a potential nail-biter finish.
Justin Rose takes lead at even par | 2:40 p.m.
The last four U.S. Opens have been won by a golfer claiming his first victory in a major.
On Sunday at Merion, Justin Rose was looking to keep that recent tradition alive.
Through nine holes, Rose held a tentative lead at even par, thanks to three birdies against two bogeys on the course’s murderous front side. That qualified as a great start for a guy who has a few victories and more than $21 million in career winnings on the PGA Tour, and is looking for something better.
“Yeah, majors are a step up for me now,” he said. “Absolutely, the thing missing from the resume is a major.”
Another top golfer looking to break into the club, Jason Day, enjoyed a brief run with birdies at Nos. 8 and 10, then plunked one in the water at the 11th and hit a poor chip from the drop zone. A chip-in bogey left him at one over.
“I think I’ve come off some pretty average golf lately and I needed to pump myself up for this week and get in as early as I could to prepare for this week because I knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “Really, the majors are kind of where it’s at.”
If he could come back, Day would be only the second Australian to win an U.S. Open.
The lead group of Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson followed just behind Rose, literally and figuratively, at one over and two over, respectively.
Mahan would be a first-timer if he joined the recent list of U.S. Open winners -- Webb Simpson (2012), Rory McIlroy (2011), Graeme McDowell (2010) and Lucas Glover (2009).
Mickelson, who turned 43 today, has a few majors in his pocket but also has a frustrating five second-place finishes in the U.S.Open, which he's never won. Lipping a birdie putt on No. 9, he put a hand on his hip and ducked his head, obviously disappointed.
Leaders struggle early at Merion Golf Club | 1:40 p.m.
Come one, come all, to exciting Merion Golf Club. Bring the family.
Watch the world’s best golfers shank balls off the hosel. And plunk fans in the gallery. And turn a mid-length birdie opportunity into a three-putt bogey.
Better cover the kids’ eyes.
With the top pairings grinding their way through Merion’s miserable early holes, it seemed less and less likely that anyone would walk away to victory in this year’s U.S. Open. If the start was any indication, the word for the day will be “survival.”
Just ask Steve Stricker, who dropped three strokes with a shank on No. 2. Or Phil Mickelson, who temporarily dropped out of the lead after a difficult chip on No. 3 left him with three-putt double bogey.
As of 4:30 p.m. EDT, he shared the top of the leaderboard with Hunter Mahan at even par but was looking at more trouble when his drive at No. 6 leaked left into the tall stuff.
“Oh no,” he yelled at the ball as it flew. “Hang on.”
Charl Schwartzel, with bogeys on Nos. 3 and 4, nonetheless held onto second place at one over. Jason Day, Justin Rose and Billy Horschel followed at two over.
On the bright side, Jason Dufner was making a charge from well back in the pack, playing a remarkable five under for the day to draw within three strokes of the lead. But then his tee shot on No. 15 ventured left, where there is but a whisper between the edge of the fairway and the out-of-bounds marker.
Dufner’s ball screamed across the road, coming to rest between a pair of temporary structures. A few swings later, he was looking at a tough putt for triple bogey. So much for that Cinderella story.
By then, a subdued Tiger Woods was off the course and meeting with reporters, trying to explain a 13-over finish, the worst showing relative to par in his professional career.
"Today was a little bit of a struggle in these conditions,” he said. “Conditions are tough out there.”
Phil Mickelson is off, hoping for history | 12:50 p.m.
They've almost cleared the U.S. Open warmup acts and divot makers -- Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia -- to give center-stage room for the 40-something contenders and one 19-year kid from Berkeley.
Yeah, it's already been a weird Sunday, seeing amateur Michael Kim, who was 10th after the third round, tee off after the likes of Woods and McIlroy.
So, now we find out. Is Phil Mickelson up to this?
Webb Simpson, last year's U.S. Open champion at the Olympic Club, stopped by the first tee at Merion to give Mickelson a good-luck hug.
Mickelson, dressed in black on Father's Day, and his 43rd birthday, then stepped to the tee box and pulled a three-wood into the rough.
And away, nervously, he went. South African Charl Scwartzel, playing a group ahead, birdied the first hole to tie Mickelson at one under par.
We know Mickelson has finished second five times at the U.S. Open, but how many of those were really close?
The 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage?
Ah, not so much. Woods won his second U.S. Open by three shots there, almost in the pitch dark.
Mickelson turned 32 on that Father's Day Sunday and was a crowd favorite. A birdie on the par-five 13th pulled him to within two shoots of the lead, but Woods quickly answered with his own birdie and closed the deal.
Phil, though, had a legitimate chance to win four other U.S. Open crowns.
--1999 at Pinehurst No. 2. He lost to Payne Stewart by one stroke. Phil held the final-day lead until he bogeyed the par-four 16th hole. Mickelson was just a kid, though, who figured he'd get plenty more chances.
--2004 at Shinnecock. Mickelson lost by two shots to Retief Goosen. Mickelson birdied No. 16 to take the final-day lead but followed with a double on the incredibly difficult par-three 17th.
--2006 at Winged Foot. This is the one that haunts Mickelson the most. He needed par on the 72nd hole to win and even a bogey would have gotten him into a playoff. Mickelson, though, hit his driver into a sponsor's tent and made double bogey to hand the trophy to Geoff Ogilvy. "I am such and idiot," Mickelson said afterward.
--2009 at Bethpage. Mickelson took the Sunday with a birdie on 12 and an eagle on 13. He three-putted No. 15 and also bogeyed the par-three 17th, handing the title to Lucas Glover.
--2013 at Merion ... ?
Two Englishmen take aim at a rare title | 12:10 p.m.
Only mad dogs and Englishmen venture into the mid-day sun and also believe another Brit can win the U.S. Open.
Think of the frequency of that occurring as roughly equal to the orbits of Halley's Comet.
Halley's Comet arrived in 1910 and 10 years later, 1920, Edward Ray boated over from England and won the U.S. Open at Inverness. He was 43 and will remain the oldest winner unless Steve Stricker (46) wins today.
Ray had a Teddy Roosevelt mustache and won the same year the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
Flash forward 50 years later, to 1970: Tony Jacklin, another Brit, won the U.S. Open at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.
It was a jolly good show as he smoked Dave Hill by seven shots. That was followed 16 years later by another appearance from Halley's Comet. It will next appear in 2062.
We bring this up because this could be a very exciting Sunday for fish-and-chips lovers. Not one, but two Englishmen are in serious U.S. Open contention.
Justin Rose and Luke Donald are both at one-over-par 211 and stand only two shots behind leader Phil Mickelson. Donald, to be honest, has become somewhat Americanized having attended college at Northwestern.
But you can bet they will still ring Big Ben in London if he chases down Liberty Bell Phil outside Philadelphia.
The English almost had a third contender until Ian Poulter played his final five third-round holes at four-over par. He ended up with a 73 and enters play today six shots back at five-over 215.
Truth is, the Brits might not get another chance like this.
Rose and Donald have what it takes to be the first winner since Jacklin in 1970. Jacklin was the English superstar of his day. He also won the 1969 British Open and, in 1967, made the first hole-in-one recorded on British TV with an ace at No. 16 at Royal St. George's.
As fate would have it, Donald and Rose will be teeing off together in the 2:58 grouping.
Tiger Woods goes low -- down leaderboard | 10:50 a.m.
"How low can Tiger Woods go?"
That's normally a gallery question related to how low in the 60s that Tiger might shoot, but not this week.
Woods, with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn watching but probably wishing she was in a chateau in Switzerland, can't get away from Merion Golf Club fast enough.
What began as a promising week in search of his 15th major championship has become a complete disaster.
Woods has already taken a triple-bogey eight on the par-five second hole and was an astounding 14 over par for the week after seven holes Sunday.
The sound you hear is the the engine starting on Woods' private jet back to Florida.
The world's No. 1 player is hovering around the T50 mark as the contenders for this year's crown start to loosen up for their afternoon rounds.
Woods is actually LOSING his death-match struggle right now with playing partner Matt Bettencourt, who was only 11 over through seven.
You may be asking: "Who is Matt Bettencourt?"
He's a 38-year-old journeyman who got into the U.S. Open through the qualifier in Maryland.
Bettencourt is from Alameda, Calif., and played golf at Modesto Junior College.
Woods, as you know, played for Stanford.
This isn't Bettencourt's first rodeo, as he finished tied for 10th in his only other U.S. Open appearance at Bethpage in 2009.
Other than both being born in California, Woods and Bettencourt are as different as two people in the same profession could possibly be.
Woods has won 76 PGA events, second only to Sam Snead's 82. Woods also owns 14 major titles and has career earnings in excess of $103 million.
Bettencourt has one PGA victory, at the 2010 Reno-Tahoe Open.
He does own two Web.com victories and has earned $2.6 million in his career, which is what Woods has already earned on tour this year.
Bettencourt has earned $28,350 this year on tour, which works out roughly to three hours of flying fuel for Tiger's jet.
Yet, Bettencourt on Sunday is matching Tiger shot-for-shot. Yep, this weekend can't end fast enough.
No. 18 at Merion offers plenty of drama | 9:40 a.m.
It's always neat when someone can make birdie on the 72nd hole to win a major golf championship but no one is expecting that in Sunday's final round of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
The par-four 18th hole at Merion has been brutal and punitive.
It will play to 521 yards on Sunday with the same back-left pin placement used when Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino went head to head in a playoff in 1971.
How tough has No. 18 played?
There were zero birdies on the hole in Saturday's third round. The equally brutal par-four fifth hole, in excess of 500 yards, actually played as the toughest third-round hole at an average of 4.79 strokes compared to 4.73 at No. 18. But at least the fifth hole yielded two third-round birdies.
And, for the week, No. 18 is still No. 1 with its 4.71 average.
All this could make for a very interesting day. Other majors, think the Masters, traditionally have easier set-ups on the final day to promote birdies and enhance the television drama.
Merion, which is located near a train station, could end up a train wreck.
Consider how the best players in the world have fared at No. 18 this week.
The top 10 players on the leaderboard are a cumulative 14 over par.
Here is a look at No. 18 by player. Refer to this if the field is still bunched later in the day:
1. Phil Mickelson (even: par, birdie, bogey)
T2. Hunter Mahan (four over: double, bogey, bogey)
T2. Charl Schwartzel (one over: bogey, birdie, bogey)
T2. Steve Stricker (even: par, par, par)
T5. Justin Rose (two over: bogey, par, bogey)
T5. Luke Donald (three over: bogey, par, double bogey)
T5. Billy Horschel (even: bogey, birdie, par)
8. Jason Day (three over: bogey, bogey, bogey)
9. Rickie Fowler (one over: par, bogey, par)
10: Michael Kim (even: birdie, par, bogey).
Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker sentimental favorites | 6 a.m.
The USGA picked the worst championship venue ever to start a campaign to speed up play, as players have contemplated the intricacies of Merion Golf Club's course like chess players agonizing over their next moves.
The top golfers in the world got around Merion on Saturday in about 5½ grueling hours.
Just try playing that slow at your local public course.
The USGA's new slogan, though, certainly applies to Sunday.
Steve Stricker could look at Phil Mickelson before the final round of the 113th U.S. Open and honestly suggest, "While we're still young?"
Mickelson turns 43 on Sunday and is trying to win his first U.S. Open. He's finished second five times and coughed up some great chances. How many more chances will he get?
Mickelson has the lead at one-under-par 209, a single stroke ahead of Hunter Mahan, Stricker and Charl Schwartzel.
"I feel better equipped than I ever have heading into a final round of a U.S. Open," Mickelson said.
One reason is he's not carrying a driver in his bag, and that has forced him to play a brutal course with calculated conservatism.
Stricker, at 46, is seeking his first major while trying to become the oldest player to win the U.S. Open.
"It would mean a lot, it really would," Stricker said. "But it's going to be a challenge [Sunday]."
There are other good story lines.
Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Billy Horschel are all two shots back at one-over 211. All are seeking their first majors, as is Mahan.
Rose, now 32, figured to be a cinch years ago when, at age 17, he made a run at the British Open. Donald is 35 and spent time at No. 1 in the world but is missing something big on his trophy case.
"I want to win a major," he said.
Horschel is only 26, and if he can control his temper, should challenge for years.
Mickelson and Stricker, though, are the clear sentimental favorites. Both are family men who would look good hoisting up the U.S. Open trophy on Father's Day.
Mickelson and Mahan will go off in the final pairing at 3:20 EDT, right after Stricker and Schwartzel.
There's nothing left to do now but watch and wait.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the top two players in the world, shot themselves out of contention Saturday, so they'll be done in plenty of time to catch what should be an exciting finish.