Orlando’s Justin Rose wins 2013 US Open

Filed under: Golf,Orlando Golf |


Some 15 years ago a young 17 year old amateur golfer stood at Royal Birkdale with his arms aloft after sinking an incredible shot from way off the green to finish 4th in the 1998 British Open. A week or so later, the young man turned professional and promptly missed the cut in his first 21 consecutive events.

So imagine then, what it must feel like today for Orlando resident Justin Rose to finally make the breakthrough and win his first major golf tournament, the 2013 US Open?

Rose, born in Johannesburg, South Africa moved to England at the age of five where he started to play golf seriously at Hartley Wintney Golf Club in Hampshire. He broke 70 for the first time at the age of 11, and was a plus one handicap by 14. He then played in the Walker Cup in 1997 as a 17-year-old and he earned his first European Tour card in 1999 when he finished 4th at the qualifying school. The following season he failed to retain his card, and had to revisit the qualifying school, where he finished 9th.

Despite his early career struggles, Rose’s career soon began to take off and he became established on the European Tour, although his first professional win was the Dunhill Championship in South Africa. In September 2002, Rose suffered the loss of his father, Ken,57, after a long battle with cancer. Ken Rose had been Justin’s mentor, guide, and inspiration and had sometimes caddied for his son during the early stages of his career. He was on hand when Justin won the British Masters at Woburn in June 2002.

In 2003, Rose reached number 33 in the Official World Golf Rankings and he earned enough money to claim his PGA Tour card as a non-member for 2004 after finishing with more money than the 125th ranked player on the money list. In 2004, he played mostly in America on the PGA Tour, while also maintaining his membership on the European Tour.

2004 and  2005 weren’t great years as his form declined but he announced that he was quitting the European Tour and concentrating on playing the PGA Tour. It was a decision that would reap rewards as he improved as a player culminating in his historic win at Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania.

And what a way and what a place to do it.  America’s golfing museum. The place with a whole gallery of legends and the host of five US Opens. Of course, there’s significant irony in the fact that a South African born Englishman would win at a place that initially started out as a cricket club. Yes, a cricket club in the United States as far back as 1896 before the members decided there was no future for it and changed it into a golf club!

Adding further to the intrigue, the golf course was built by a man who had never designed a golf course before in his life. For seven months, Hugh Wilson visited Scotland and England to study British courses and today, it’s possible to note that several features of Merion East are derived from famous British courses, not the least of which are Merion’s distinctive Scottish-style bunkers, which are now known as the “white faces of Merion.” Wilson’s layout covers only 126 acres of land which is very small area for a golf course but golfing greats like Jack Nicklaus have laid testament to it saying “Acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world.”

Another unusual factor adding more mystique are the wicker basket pins instead of the usual flags. As one story goes, when Hugh Wilson was in England studying golf courses, he happened upon local sheep herders and their flocks. These shepherds held staffs that they used for herding, and the staffs all had wicker baskets at the top. In those baskets, they kept their lunch for the day so that no animals could get into it. Wilson decided to use the idea at Merion, although the exact origin has never been fully verified. The baskets have been used since at least 1916 and the pro’s have a love / hate relationship with them as they do not give the golfer any indication of wind direction at the green.

So it was against this background that Justin Rose set out on his final round in the third from final group with playing partner Luke Donald. At various points of the round crowd favorite Phil Mickelson and Rose traded the lead but the deciding play came at the 18th hole. Feeling the pressure of the most important drive of his career on the line, Rose hit a magnificent drive that finished a few yards from the famous Ben Hogan plate. The position from where that particular golfing genius hit that one-iron to win the US Open.

Knowing that a par would probably be good enough to win, Rose smoked a majestic four-iron, which rolled just past the pin on to the fringe of the green. Nerveless, Rose took his three-wood and hit it to within an inch. He sank the putt but there was only one person in his mind this Father’s Day. Rose glanced to the sky and with tears in his eyes remembered the years of struggle and the years of triumph with his father, Ken, by his side.

Of course, Rose’s old man would have known that with Phil Mickelson needing to birdie the last, something no player had done over the weekend, anything was still possible. Unfortunately, it was not to be for Phil however, as his drive found the light rough and he was unable to get his approach shot close enough to leave a realistic birdie putt. The left-hander was destined to a sixth runner-up finish at his national championship.

Rose, meanwhile, was in the clubhouse with his wife Kate and his caddie, Mark Fulcher, watching his destiny become clear. Finally, he was a major winner. The 2013 US Open champion. And, in doing so Justin Rose became the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo in ’96 & first to win US Open since Tony Jacklin in ’70.

It was a great championship. A superb tournament that defied the critics who beforehand had stated that the course wouldn’t stand up to the test of the modern game. By the end of it though, that issue had been truly resolved as players like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy went home without challenging the leader board. McIlroy, in fact, was so frustrated by his play that he bent his own club on the 11th hole, not being able to use it again in completing his round.

“It feels fantastic,” said Rose, “I committed myself to the process this week. I committed myself to putting a strategy in place that I hoped would work in five-to-10 years in delivering major championships. And I tried to strike on that feeling the first week out, first time I tried and tested it to come out with the silver. And it feels absolutely amazing.

“Going forward gives me a lot of confidence. I don’t know if it takes pressure off, but it’s a moment where you can look back and think childhood dreams have come true.”

“It wasn’t lost on me that today was Father’s Day, a lot of us come from great men and we have a responsibility to our children to show what a great man can be.”

“For it to all just work out 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 do do with it.”

It was a fitting end to the tournament.

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