Coming up Roses at the Memorial
Justin Rose always knew he had the game to win on the PGA Tour; he just never expected the road to be so arduous after he burst onto the scene at the 1998 British Open as a 17-year-old amateur. Since then his career has taken a number of diabolical turns — including 21 consecutive missed cuts — that would have tested the wills of even the most gifted player.
But on Sunday, there was Rose with his son, Leo, holding the trophy for the first time in his PGA Tour career after firing a final round 6-under 66 to beat third-round leader Rickie Fowler by three shots.
As the rest of the field failed to make a move, it became increasingly obvious that the back nine was turning into a head-to-head battle between Rickie Fowler, the up-and-coming 20-year-old sensation, and Rose, once considered a future star on the PGA Tour.
Fowler found himself in prime position to win his first professional tournament within six months of coming on tour when he managed to take a three-shot lead into Sunday’s final round. But like most rookies, Fowler found things a little more difficult in the final round. The putts that were falling from all over the map stopped going in, and suddenly Fowler was forced to grind for the win.
A double bogey on the par 3 12th all but ended his chances of becoming another twentysomething winner on the PGA Tour in 2010. Instead, Fowler was forced to learn from the opportunity and the extreme pressure that comes with securing your first tour title. Fowler will have little time to recoup and reflect on the week with a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier tomorrow.
For Rose, the round on Sunday was more of a walk in the park than a grind-it-out heart-pounder. The Englishman was methodical in the way he went around the course, never putting himself in a position to make a big mistake. Even though he was behind at the start of the day, Rose played like a player who knew he was going to win.
He hit 93 percent of his fairways on the day — his best driving day of the entire week — and hit 72 percent of his greens in regulation to go along with 25 putts. But those numbers paled in comparison to the most important number on his card, which happened to be a zero. As in zero bogeys on the day. Simply put, Rose was spotless when it mattered.
With the win, Rose found validation in something he knew all along, that being the fact that he belonged on the PGA Tour. But Rose wasn’t the only one with belief in his game. The tournament host knew he’d win at some point, at his tournament ,no less.
Jack Nicklaus, who happens to be a huge fan of Rose’s game and ability, told the 29-year-old years ago that he’d win one day at Muirfield Village. As usual, Jack was right.
(First published at Waggle Room)