June 17, 2013

U.S. Open: Rose's trophy, Mickelson's thorn

Justin Rose wins as Phil Mickelson loses the lead to finish second for a record sixth time Sunday.

By BARRY SVRLUGA The Washington Post

ARDMORE, Pa. — Phil Mickelson keeps coming back, and presumably, next year at Pinehurst, he will return for what will be his 24th U.S. Open. He claims it to be fun, and maybe in the midst of it, while he’s holing out wedges for eagle to take the lead, it is.

click image to enlarge

Justin Rose, born in South Africa and raised in England, celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., on Sunday.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Justin Rose of England reacts after a putt on the 18th hole during the fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., on Sunday. Rose won the tournament.

The Associated Press

But he is 43 now, 43 on Sunday in fact, with more of his career behind him than ahead. If the Open returns to Merion Golf Club, a glorious, rolling piece of land in the Philadelphia suburbs, Mickelson almost certainly won’t be there. He’ll finally be too old. Maybe that’s good. Why come back to see your own blood stains on the fairway of yet another golf course?

“For me,” Mickelson said, “it’s very heartbreaking.”

Justin Rose, born in South Africa and raised in England, won the 113th U.S. Open Sunday with an even-par round of 70 that left him at 1-over 281 for the tournament.

He did so even though he bogeyed two of the final five holes, even though scarcely a soul in Merion’s grandstands pulled for him. That had nothing to do with Rose, an accomplished and gracious 32-year-old, and everything to do with Mickelson, whose relationship with the U.S. Open has long involved scar tissue, and now has one more open wound, liable to grow infected.

Sunday, Mickelson woke with a one-shot lead, made two double bogeys in his first five holes, then bogeyed three of his final six to close with 74 and tie with Australia’s Jason Day for second – say it again, second – at 3-over 283. The particulars come later, but the wide-angle view is inescapable: Mickelson already held the record for runner-up finishes at the Open with five. Sunday, he extended it to six.

He has three Masters titles and a PGA Championship. And there are moments when those accomplishments scarcely seems to matter.

“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,” Mickelson said. “Except I just keep feeling heartbreak.”

So what Sunday leaves us, unfortunately, isn’t as much an opportunity to celebrate Rose, but an excruciating exercise in dissecting Mickelson. It was the same in 2004 at Shinnecock, remembered more for Mickelson, with the lead, three-putting for double bogey at the 17th than it is for Retief Goosen’s victory. It was even worse in 2006 at Winged Foot, where the specifics have become almost a lesson in how cruel golf can be to the psyche and soul.

But because of what happened Sunday, they must be stated again: he held the lead on the 72nd tee, hit his drive into a tent left of the fairway, made an ill-advised attempt to play through some trees, and made double bogey to lose.

Come up with the winner then. Come on. It was Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who has never finished better than a tie for ninth in any other U.S. Open.

That is now the category into which Rose falls, the guy who won when Mickelson lost. It’s unfair, because Rose hit some brilliant shots Sunday – his back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 took the lead back from Mickelson, who had just holed out a 76-yard wedge for eagle at No. 10 – and he is a worthy champion, ranked fifth in the world.

In last year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah, he birdied the final two holes of his singles match to help spark Europe’s comeback, a 1-up victory. His victim that day: Mickelson.

(Continued on page 2)

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