ARDMORE, Pa. — Justin Rose stood in the middle of the fairway at the final hole at the Merion Golf Club, ready to create some history of his own.
Not far away was the plaque in the middle of the fairway, commemorating Ben Hogan’s famous 1-iron shot in the final round of the 1950 U.S. Open that forced a playoff — a playoff Hogan won just seven months after a horrible auto accident that nearly claimed his life.
Photographers were lined not far behind Rose, hoping to maybe recreate the black-and-white photograph of Hogan that remains the most iconic in golf.
“I walked over the hill, I saw my ball on a little upslope with the green waiting to be hit,” Rose said. “That image is kind of hard not to escape that this was my turn to kind of have that iconic moment.”
And Rose delivered.
His 4-iron from over 220 yards scooted past the hole, settled on the back fringe and allowed Rose to par the final hole to give him a scintillating two-shot victory at the 113th U.S. Open for his first major championship.
“I think I did Hogan justice with the shot I hit,” Rose said.
Rose, the No. 5 player in the world, celebrated the moment by staring at the sky and pointing to the heavens to salute his father, Ken, who died of leukemia in 2002.
Rose becomes the first player from England to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.
“You don’t often have the opportunity to dedicate victories to someone you love,” Rose said. “Today was about him and being Father’s Day. That was my time. The clouds had parted, it was kind of ironic. It was a beautiful evening and the way it worked out, I felt I needed to do that.”
The victory by Rose handed Phil Mickelson another heart-breaking defeat in the U.S. Open.
Needing a birdie at the final hole to force a playoff, Mickelson made bogey from the left rough and finished tied for second with Jason Day of Australia. It was the sixth time Mickelson has finished runner-up at the U.S. Open, more than any player in history.
The 18th hole, a 511-yard par-4, didn’t yield a birdie in the final two rounds of the championship.
“For me, it’s very heart-breaking,” Mickelson said. “This could have really changed how I looked at the U.S. Open and the tournament I’d love to win. This was probably my best opportunity, certainly heading into the final round with the way I was playing and the position I was in.”
Mickelson either held or shared the lead after each of the first three rounds and carried a one-shot lead into the final round. And he put himself in position to win his fifth major championship and first U.S. Open when he holed a wedge from 75 yards for eagle at No. 10 to take a one-shot lead.
It was Mickelson’s first eagle at a U.S. Open since the 13th hole of the fourth round in 2009 at Bethpage Black. At the time, that eagle tied him for the lead with Lucas Glover.
“To see that ball go in, I thought I was in good position,” Mickelson said. “Until that hole-out at 10, it seemed that I hit putts that just wouldn’t go in.”
Mickelson, though, bogeyed three of the final six holes to end any chance of winning his first U.S. Open. His final-round 74 left him at 3-over 283, tied with Day (71).
Hunter Mahan, who began the final round just a shot from the lead, shot 75 and finished tied for fourth with Jason Dufner (67), Ernie Els (69) and Billy Horschel (74).
Meantime, Rose had five birdies and five bogeys in his final-round 70, but it was back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 that started him on his way to victory.
“It feels absolutely amazing to me,” Rose said. “It takes the pressure off. But it’s a moment when you look back and think childhood dreams have come true.”
Mickelson looked as though his dream of winning the U.S. Open might come true when he holed a wedge from the heavy rough for eagle at No. 10, a 290-yard par four. When the ball went in the hole, Mickelson jumped in the air, both arms raised above his head, in celebration.
That allowed him to leapfrog Rose and Day back into the lead.
Rose, though, wasted little time tying Mickelson for the lead, hitting his approach at the par-4 12th to 2½ feet for birdie. Then, after being bothered by a noise from the gallery on his tee shot at the short par-3 13th, he made a 16-footer for birdie to jump back in the lead.
“I came back with birdie-birdie on top of his eagle,” Rose said. “It gave me a little wiggle room coming down the stretch.”
Rose, though, started to list. He all but shanked a greenside bunker shot at No. 14 and made bogey, then made another when he three-putted at the par-4 16th.
But he clinged to a one-shot lead because Mickelson, two groups behind, elected to play a chip shot from the putting surface at No. 15 and ended up making bogey. Mickelson said he chose a wedge rather than a putter for the 40-foot shot because of a hump in the putting surface.
“You find out about yourself,” Rose said. “You wonder if you can handle it. And when you discover you can handle it, you want to do it again and again.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gerry Dulac is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.