After tapping in for par on the 18th hole at Merion Golf Club to finish the day at even par and +1 for the tournament, Justin Rose knew he had a one-shot lead at the U.S. Open and looked up to the heavens at his late father Ken, who passed away 11 years ago from leukemia.
Cameras captured Rose crying with his wife, as he thought of his dad and all that he had to overcome professionally and just let it all out. When Phil Mickelson could not birdie the 18th hole, Rose finally broke through to win his first major. But it seemed a foregone conclusion after he parred the brutal 18th hole that had not yielded a birdie in two days.
“I couldn’t help but look up to the heavens and think that my old dad Ken had something to do with it,” Rose said. “It wasn’t lost on me that today was Father’s Day.”
The precocious amateur broke onto the scene by finishing fourth at the 1998 British Open and, perhaps burdened by lofty expectations, promptly missed his first 21 cuts after turning pro, forcing him to doubt whether he belonged in golf. When he finally steadied his career, he lost his father 11 years ago to leukemia. And after coming up short in major after major, he conceded on Sunday that he doubted whether he would ever win one.
Rose’s round was a testament to his perseverance, as he had five bogeys to go along with his five birdies to be the only player in the last ten groups to finish at even par on a classic course that made the world’s best golfers look silly at times.
The player that has faded so memorably at majors on Sundays said he knew his time had come when he nailed a tee shot that landed just yards away from Ben Hogan’s famous plaque on the 18th hole, which commemorates the spot from where the legendary golfer hit his “1-iron” at the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion to make it into the playoff. Hogan won the U.S. Open the next day, marking a dramatic comeback from a car accident that nearly killed him less than two years before.
“I thought this is my moment,” Rose said he thought when he saw his ball nearly landed on the plaque. “Suddenly it was me in the middle of the fairway.”
Rose said after Adam Scott won his first major this year at the Masters, he actually texted Rose and said that such a moment would be coming soon for him.
“He’s a wise man,” Rose said.
He is the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo put on the Green Jacket in 1996 and the first Brit to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970 at Hazeltine.
Rose, one of the most popular players on the Tour, emphasized on Father’s Day that “a lot of us come from great men” and “have responsibilities to show our children what great men can be.”
On Sunday, Rose showed his children that perseverance has a lot to do with greatness.