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Published: Monday, 6/7/2010

Rose overcomes deficit of 4 shots to secure first PGA Tour victory

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DUBLIN, Ohio - Winless for more than two years, so far down the world ranking that he was in danger of being forgotten, Justin Rose decided to stop being obsessed with results and think only about the shot in front of him.

It led to a result that was long overdue.

With a flawless final round to overcome a four-shot deficit, Rose had one-putt greens on eight consecutive holes yesterday and closed with a 6-under 66 to win the Memorial Tournament for his first title in America.

"I've had a few close calls over time, and you start to sometimes wonder why you can't get it done," Rose said.

Rose ran off three straight birdies before the turn, made a 20-foot par putt to keep his momentum, then seized control when Rickie Fowler took a double bogey with a tee shot into the water on the 12th hole. Fowler shot 73 to finish three shots behind.

When he tapped in for par on the final hole, Rose thrust his fist in the air slammed it down, as joyful as he was when he burst onto the golf scene 12 years ago as the 17-year-old amateur who tied for fourth in the 1998 British Open.

It was the second straight year the Memorial winner came from four shots behind. Tiger Woods did it a year ago, and Rose was equally impressive in playing without a bogey on a course made tough by the strong gusts.

Even his 16-month-old son Leo approved. As Rose held him aloft in his arms, the infant clapped his hands. Then came a handshake from the tournament host, Jack Nicklaus, who told the 29-year-old Englishman two years ago he would win the Memorial one day.

"To win here at the Memorial, at Jack's tournament, I couldn't think of a better place to win my first tournament," Rose said.

Fowler, the 21-year-old rookie trying to become the youngest winner at Muirfield Village, was atop the leaderboard for 48 consecutive holes until his 5-iron to the par-3 12th bounded off the side of a slope and into the water for a double bogey.

"I just made a bad swing and paid for it," said Fowler, a runner-up for the second time this year.

Rose had finished second or third in the 161 tournaments he had played on the PGA Tour, enough to have doubts. He put them away with a putt on the 16th hole that wasn't as important as he thought at the time.

Rose had seen Fowler, playing in the group behind him, hitting from the drop area on the 12th. But he heard cheers behind as Fowler tried to catch up, and one of the loudest roars of the day came from the 15th hole. Rose knew it was an eagle, and he heard the fans screaming out, "Ricky."

Rickie Fowler was playing in the same group as Ricky Barnes. He wasn't sure who they were cheering, but he assumed it was Fowler.

Turns out it was Barnes.

"I thought, 'OK, here we go. This is dead even.'•"

Only when he reached the 18th green did Rose realize he was three shots clear.

It was his seventh victory worldwide - Rose has won on five of the six major tours in the world - but his first on the PGA Tour. He joined an English revival in golf this year, with Lee Westwood rising to No. 3 in the world, Ian Poulter winning his first World Golf Championship, and Luke Donald reaching the top 10 in the world with a victory in Spain.

"Until you win over here, you don't feel like you've really achieved all you want to in the game," Rose said.

As he finished signing autographs, he bumped into Fowler, who stopped to congratulate him.

"Your time is coming," Rose told Fowler.

Dressed in orange from his cap to his shoes, Fowler showed great poise and hit great shots - including a 4-iron into the wind and over the water to two feet on the sixth - to stay in control. A brief lapse was all it took. He drove into a bunker on No. 10 for bogey, took birdie out of the equation on the par-5 11th by laying up into the rough, and found the water on No. 12.

Barnes shot a 73 and tied for third with Bo Van Pelt, who missed a short par putt on the final hole and had to settle for a 69.

Woods, the defending champion and a four-time winner, closed with a 72 and tied for 19th to finish 12 shots behind. It was his worst finish at the Memorial since 2002.

Nancy Lopez, arguably the most popular women's golfer of all time, will be the 2011 honoree at the Memorial Tournament, it was announced yesterday.

The LPGA Hall-of-Famer turned pro in 1977 and went on to win 48 tour events, including three major championships. Nine of those wins, including five in a row, came during her rookie season of '78 and she added eight more victories a year later.

In '98, Lopez was honored by the U.S. Golf Association with the Bob Jones Award for distinguished sportsmanship.

Seve Ballesteros, the great Spanish golfer who has been battling brain cancer, was the honoree during the 2010 Memorial, which concluded yesterday at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg contributed to this report.



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