Justin Rose wins the U.S. Open at Merion by two shots from American Phil Mickelson
English golfer earns his first major title after finishing on one-over-par 281 at Merion
Four-time major winner Mickelson is runner-up at the tournament for the sixth time
On his 43rd birthday, Mickelson ends in a tie for second with Australia's Jason Day
Justin Rose became the first English golfer in 43 years to win the U.S. Open on Sunday as Phil Mickelson failed to conjure up a 43rd birthday present for himself.
The American finished as runner-up at the tournament for the sixth time, while the 32-year-old Rose ended his long wait for a major title as he triumphed by two shots after a tense final round in Pennsylvania.
Mickelson needed to birdie the last hole to force a playoff – which no-one had managed during the final round – but he ended up dropping a shot and tying for second with Australia’s Jason Day.
World No. 3 Rose, who moved to Britain from South Africa as a five-year-old, launched himself onto the golf scene when he finished fourth at the 1998 British Open as the leading amateur.
However, he missed the cut in his first 21 tournaments as a professional and took time to find his way after losing his father and mentor Ken to cancer in 2002.
“You saw me look to the heavens, with it being Father’s Day – I was just trying to remember my dad,” Rose told reporters.
He became the second first-time major winner this season, following Australian Adam Scott’s victory at April’s Masters, as he made up a two-shot deficit on Mickelson going into the final round.
Mickelson made a terrible start, with two double-bogeys either side of a birdie within his opening five holes, and Rose had a share of the lead with Day at the halfway stage.
Mickelson regained the lead with a superb eagle at the par-four 10th, but Rose bounced back from a bogey with birdies at 12 and 13 before dropping back to level with his rival.
However, Mickelson paid for a poor shot at 15 as he dropped back to two over and Rose responded with pars at 17 and 18 – the latter chipping from off the green with a three-wood to give himself a tap-in for an even par round of 70.
That left Mickelson needing to produce the kind of putting heroics that Rose displayed against him in last year’s decisive singles match at the Ryder Cup at Medinah, but the left-hander will have to wait another year to win his national tournament – having also been bridesmaid in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009.
“Very heartbreaking,” Mickelson said. “This is probably the toughest for me.”
World No. 1 Tiger Woods endured his worst performance at the U.S. Open since turning professional as he closed with 74 to be 13 over for the tournament – his highest score when making the halfway cut.
“There’s always a lesson to be learned in every tournament whether you win or lose,” said Woods, who had been seeking his fourth U.S. Open win and 15th major overall.
“I’ll look back at the things I did right and the things I did wrong. I did a lot of things right. Unfortunately I did a few things wrong as well.”
Second-ranked Rory McIlroy also had a miserable week, and ended it by breaking a club after making a quadruple bogey during his closing 76 – which left him a shot behind Woods in a tie for 41st.
“What you don’t want to do as a golfer is follow one mistake with another, and that’s what I did,” said McIlroy, who won the first of his two mjaors at the 2011 U.S. Open.
“I think that’s what this tournament does to you. At one point or another it’s got the better of you, and it definitely did this weekend.”
Veteran South African Ernie Els finished tied for fourth with Americans Hunter Mahan, Jason Dufner and Billy Horschel, with the British Open champion closing with 69.
Mahan had been in contention for his first major title but he faded on the home stretch, with a double bogey at the 15th before dropping shots at his last two holes to card 75.
Dufner shot 67 for the equal best score of the final day – which was matched by 10th-placed Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.
Michael Kim was the leading amateur as he finished in a tie for 17th on 10-over 290.
The 19-year-old, born in South Korea but raised in San Diego, suffered a double bogey at his last hole as he signed for a 76.