Right Time for Rose Victory


All the stars suddenly aligned for Justin Rose on Sunday at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia. After bursting on the golf scene as an 18-year-old amateur with a fourth-place finish in the 1998 British Open, the Johannesburg-born, England-raised Rose - now 32 - gradually began positioning himself for a career-defining victory.

His breakthrough came when he won the 2010 Memorial, followed within a month by another victory, this one at Tiger Woods' AT&T National. Rose won the following year at one of the European Tour's majors, the BMW Championship, then last year took his first WGC title in the Cadillac Championship.

Rose's ascension continued last September in the Ryder Cup at Medinah, where he out-dueled Phil Mickelson in a pivotal singles match, one that helped rally the Europeans to an unlikely victory over the Americans and allowed them to retain the Cup for another two years.

It wasn't a month later that Rose stared down Woods and Lee Westwood to win the World Golf Final in Turkey.

So the table was set for Rose to achieve even greater heights in 2013. And that he did Sunday, closing with an even-par 70 on Merion's tough East Course to win the 113th U.S. Open.

The course emasculated the elite Open field; no player finished 72 holes with an under-par score. But at the end of Sunday Rose emerged with the lowest number - a 1-over 281, to edge Australia's Jason Day and a hard-luck Mickelson by two strokes.

The victory on Father's Day was particularly emotional for Rose, who lost his father, Ted, to leukemia in 2002.

After accepting the U.S. Open trophy, Rose met with reporters and discussion his play, Merion's difficulty and what winning his first major title means to him. Here's what he had to say.

MODERATOR: We would like to welcome the winner of the 113th U.S. Open here at Merion Golf Club, Justin Rose. Justin, congratulations on your first Major victory. Justin, has that sunk in yet?

JUSTIN ROSE: You know what, it probably has not. It's been an amazing week, to be honest with you, almost an amazing two weeks from when I first came to Merion, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday last week, and to make my first trip to the media center with the trophy is just, I couldn't have what a time to be here. What a piece of silverware to be sitting to my right. It's just an incredible experience and just a childhood dream come true at this point.

MODERATOR: Can you offer some thoughts not only on winning the U.S. Open but doing so at a club like Merion?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, this golf club is steeped in history. That really sort of hit home when I came here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, last week. I was able to appreciate this golf course in the quiet moments, when there was nobody around, when there weren't thousands of people here for the championship. And that's when I did fall in love with the golf course. Trevino says, "Fell in love with a girl named Merion, just didn't know her last name." I've been sort of joking about that all week.

I feel like I established a game plan that really held true for me. And the way I prepared this week and the way I everything played out, it just seems like it's just been a perfect week start to finish. Merion, I don't think anybody expected this golf course to hold up the way it did. I certainly didn't buy into the 62s and 14 under, but I figured that maybe 4 , 5 , 6 under par would be the winning total. But it surprised everybody. And I'm just glad I was kind of the last man standing.

MODERATOR: Congratulations. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. This a two part question. One, what does it mean to you to win the U.S. Open here at Merion? And second, what were your initial thoughts when you won the championship?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I've been striving my whole life really to win a major championship. I've holed a putt to win a major championship hundred of thousands of times on the putting green at home. And preparing for this tournament, I dream about the moment of having a putt to win. Pretty happy it was a two incher on the last. But that's as a professional golfer, I mean this is the pinnacle of the game, winning major championships, and to win the United States Open championship is, I guess in a way, very fitting of how my game has been the last couple of years. Last year leading greens in regulation and this year sort of being No. 1, I think, in total driving coming into the week. I felt like this tournament really began to be on my radar as possibly the one major championship that would suit me the most. I had always felt good at Augusta, always dreamed about winning the Open Championship, but I thought this one actually might have been my best chance.

I really targeted Merion. Philadelphia's been a good town to me and certainly a great town for my caddie too. So I just love it when a plan comes together. It's kind of how this week felt, to be honest with you.

Q. Would you explain what diverted your attention on the 13th tee box? And it looked like you maybe gave a look back after you sank that birdie. It looked like something happened in your swing.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, on the tee shot I felt that there were about five or six or seven cameramen behind the tee box, including the TV guys, and I just felt like as I was coming down there was a camera, someone just went a little bit early with the click, and obviously no harm no foul, I hit it to 15 feet. But it definitely sort of caught my attention. And then when I made the putt, I just kind of I think I was signaling to the crowd. I don't know, it was nobody in particular when I made the putt.

Q. Does it seem 15 years since Birkdale and when you were doing your practice days, did you envision yourself walking up 18 collecting the trophy?

JUSTIN ROSE: Probably at times it feels 25 years since Birkdale, and other times it feels like it was just yesterday. There's a lot of water under the bridge. My learning curve has been steep from that point. Sort of announced myself on the golfing scene probably before I was ready to handle it. And golf can be a cruel game. And definitely I have had the ups and down, but I think that ultimately it's made me stronger and able to handle the situations like today, for example.

And then obviously preparing for this tournament, it's hard not to play Merion and envision yourself hitting the shot that Hogan did. And even in the moment today, that was not lost on me. When I walked over the hill and saw my drive sitting perfectly in the middle of the fairway, with the sun coming out, it was kind of almost fitting. And I just felt like at that point it was a good iron shot on to the green, two putts, like Hogan did, and possibly win this championship. So I felt like I did myself justice and probably put enough of a good swing where Ben Hogan might have thought it was a decent shot too. But obviously it crawled through the back edge and the up and down, I guess, looked quite easy in the end. But the lie wasn't too bad. But I definitely didn't want to be chipping it. It was one of those lies that you could stub out quite easily. I got the 3 wood on it and made the tap in kind of nice and easy.

Q. You mentioned Philadelphia, you won at Aronimink obviously three years ago. What is it about this town that suits you? And you mentioned the caddie really loves it. Could you explain that, please?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, sure. I think obviously it has some great classic golf courses here. Aronimink and Merion, they're both old school golf courses with very tricky design, tricky greens. Course management and strategy is a huge part of playing those venues. And I felt like on both occasions I've been on my game, and I had the ball under control and I would be able to navigate my way around the course without making too many mistakes. I think that's paid off for me.

But basically I think just having really old school classic golf courses in this area is a testament to obviously the golf in Philadelphia. And then my caddie, I'm not sure of his exact record, but I know he used to caddie on the LPGA Tour and he had a lot of success here as well. This is his fifth win in Philadelphia. So when Merion popped up on to the schedule, he was incredibly happy to see it. I think he was just trying to make sure he hung on to my bag long enough to come to the U.S. Open at Merion. (Laughter.)

Q. You said that you thought Merion was fun today, that you had fun playing here. It certainly didn't look like fun. A lot of golfers struggled. What about the challenge do you love?

JUSTIN ROSE: I love the fact that it's kind of got an ebb and a flow to it, the golf course. You start out and well, what I first love about Merion is how one of the local caddies described it, the first six holes are drama, the second six holes are comedy, and the last six holes are tragedy. Like a good play, like a good theatrical play. And that in a sense has been the way I framed up the golf course in my mind. Just trying to get off to a solid start. Trying to gain a little bit of ground in the middle and then hang on. So very rarely do you get a golf course that has distinct feels through stretches of holes like that.

I think that's why the leaderboard would change. And then, for example, last night how a lot of guys faltered coming down the stretch particularly the last two holes. I felt pretty despondent for a second or two after finishing last night until I realized that the whole field had had trouble on those last couple holes. And I shook that off really quickly and kind of figured out that the last five holes here are - you have to treat them differently. You sort of have to take your - you have to take par off the scorecard if you like. You just got to play them and maybe 2 over par is level par for the last five holes. So it was nice to play obviously those last two holes in even par today and that was the difference.

Q. Your mother wasn't here today, what do you think she was thinking? I take it you haven't heard from her. You haven't been able to get through to her and what news is there of the baby? Your sister?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, so I texted my mom late last night and I said, let's do it for dad tomorrow. And she just simply texted me back that would be fantastic. And so they were probably more nervous than me. I think watching can be harder for the family than actually sometimes the playing. And I did get hold of her after my round and we both were in floods of tears speaking to each other, and obviously especially with my dad being - she misses him immensely. I miss him immensely. And I thought today was just a fitting time in which I could honor him by looking up. Even if Phil had finished birdie, birdie, I just felt like I had done what I could out there. I felt like I sort of put into practice a lot of the lessons that he's taught me, and I felt like I conducted myself in a way that he would be proud of, win or lose. And that's what today was about for me in a lot of ways as well. And obviously my sister, to let everybody know, she's probably due any day, really. So the late nights and the stress have probably been either getting her into labor or certainly getting her accustomed to sleepless nights. One of the two.

Q. Hunter said outside on the podium that your win reaffirms Foley's teaching techniques. Can you speak to that, please.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yes. If I understand the question, Sean Foley, next week is at or actually Congressional in two weeks at the AT&T, that will be our fourth-year anniversary. And I feel like my golf game has gotten better and better every year. And for me to come in a U.S. Open and feel like this is one of my legitimate chances to win a major is a testament to my ball striking. Last year leading both Tours in fact in greens in regulation, and this year there's been a big improvement in my driving stats. I picked up a little bit of yardage and hitting it a little bit straighter. So I got to give a lot of credit to Sean. And also Sean did text me a very nice text this morning that was golf unrelated to golf. He said something along the lines of just go out there and be the man that your dad taught you to be and be the man that your kids can look up to, sort of be a role model. So twofold. Really that was my goal today, and it speaks a little bit to John's question. So today was about winning the U.S. Open, but it was also about honoring, I guess, great men that have come before us. A lot of us have that sort of situation with their fathers.

Q. When Phil holed out for eagle on 10, you answered pretty quickly. I was wondering how aware were you of exactly what he had done and obviously you heard the roars, how instrumental was that to you winning today?

JUSTIN ROSE: Well, I three putted 11 and then heard the roars. So it was definitely a momentum stopper. And I kind of felt when I was going down 11 that I was in control of the tournament. And I hit two nice shots into 11 and that putt was actually incredibly quick. Luke Donald actually gave me a read on how fast it was, and I still couldn't quite trust how fast that putt actually was. So that was a little bit of an error. Then to hear the roars obviously of Phil on 10, I knew it had to be an eagle because nobody can get very close to the green on 10. So almost like you'd make birdie there and there would be polite applause. So I knew to have that kind of reaction it wasn't a birdie, it was an eagle.

So I guess I got fortunate in the sense that I didn't go chasing the golf course because of that, but I immediately answered with birdie-birdie of my own on 12 and 13. And I think that that point was huge. Because it just gave me that little bit of leeway playing the last five holes. I kind of knew that no one was going to play the last five perfectly, so if you were coming into the last five holes 2 or 3 over par already, you were going to have a hard time closing out the Tournament. You kind of needed that little bit of a cushion. And that's what the birdies on 12 and 13 gave me.

Q. Can you maybe expand upon the text that Sean sent you in terms of just the relationship, the influence that your dad had on your life and career?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously the relationship that Sean and I have is I would say it's more than just a player/coach relationship. I regard him as a true friend and I regard him as someone who, if I ever had a question upon golf or upon life, he would be very much at the top of my list. He's a very mentally, I think, a very interesting character and very strong mentally. And he passes that on as well.

My relationship with my dad was always I viewed my relationship with him - I was 21 when he passed away and I always think about it as the time together we had was quality not quantity. I would rather have had a 21 fantastic years with my dad than 40 years of a relationship that was, hey, you know, so so. But I have very fond memories of the way I grew up. My dad and I were lucky enough to spend a lot of quality time together learning to play the game, after school on the driving range, so I can look back at our life together with a lot of fondness.

Q. You guys endured a lot of heartbreak in your career which is a word that Phil used today concerning the U.S. Open. Can you relate to or talk about just what it's like to deal with that sort of heartbreak from his perspective?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. This is definitely a tough defeat for Phil. Five times or something, I guess now six times second in the U.S. Open. He's such a great guy to play golf with and to have for the Tour. I love the way he plays the game. He plays fearless golf. He keeps everybody guessing. He's entertaining. And I feel fortunate to have been able to beat a world class player that he is on a day like today. He's also on Father's Day, I mean he really showed the true spirit of fatherhood being at home for his daughter's graduation earlier in the week and putting a tournament as his second priority and that's very admirable. So I got to give him a lot of - a big shout out for that.

And obviously I learned a lot about Phil at the Ryder Cup when we went down the stretch there together. And on that occasion I was fortunate enough to make three of the best putts of my life to pip him. And he couldn't have been more gracious. So I feel for him. Obviously the crowd was it was a tough day for him too, I'm sure, dealing with his birthday, dealing with the pressure of having finished second here five times, it couldn't have been easy for him. So definitely respect him absolutely.

Q. With the lead changing hands so often and with birdies often being followed next hole by a bogey, how do you keep yourself in perspective, keep yourself in the moment? And were there times when you had to give yourself a talking to or your caddie had to say something to you just to say, it doesn't matter, it's a bogey and we move on.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, we had a very sort of narrow framework of thoughts this week. We had three or four thoughts which are all process driven. What's the appropriate shot, execute it, accept it, move on. And just keep running that over and over and over and over again. If you start getting outside that, you really are not bringing anything helpful into the mix. So that takes a lot of discipline to think that way, to act that way, to do that for 72 straight holes. And we managed to do it. I think my caddie and I both got on the same page this week and we both helped each other out from that point of view. If he felt himself getting off, he had the vision to get back on track. And if he could see me getting off, we could talk about it and it was good that we both had a very clear game plan this week.

Q. When you had the struggles you had after you turned pro, missing cuts, et cetera, did you always see days like this coming and how far away did they seem at that time?

JUSTIN ROSE: When I was missing 21 cuts in a row, I mean I was just trying to not fade away, really. I just didn't want to be known as a one hit wonder, Flash in the pan. I believed in myself inherently, deep down I always knew that I had a talent to play the game. And I simply thought that if I put talent and hard work together, surely it will work out in the end, in the long run. I think that the other thing that I was able to do during that time period is not beat myself further and further into the ground. If I missed a cut by one, one week and I missed a cut or if I missed a cut by five one week and I missed it by two the next week, I would kind of tell myself that I was getting better. I wouldn't kind of beat myself further into the ground. So I think that's how I worked my way out of it a little bit.

But I've sort of also there's been times in my career where I found it hard to finish tournaments, finish events, close out tournaments, and I think a lot of that goes back to that sort of scar tissue of early in my career. And I feel like in the last really since I started winning in 2010, I had a two win season over here on the PGA Tour, that was sort of when I first felt like I was over the start to my pro career and I could kind of move on and believe in myself and be confident and trust myself under pressure. Today, for example, I just felt very much in control for most of the day. And I had my ups and downs as well. I had a couple 3 putts on the back nine and just didn't really influence the next golf shot. So pretty happy about that.

Q. It's been a long time without an English winner of a major this tournament or even further back. Can this be a springboard for more wins for more English guys and also looking forward to your own career? How keen are you to add even more majors now that you've got the one under your belt?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, there's been a very strong crop of English players for quite some time now, with myself, like, obviously Westwood and then Poulter as well, Paul Casey was up there for a good while and is probably going to make a comeback, I think. I really hope it does inspire them. And I think it was always going to be matter of time before one of us broke through. It was just going to be who. And I always hoped it was going to be me to be the first, obviously. But I really hoped that it sort of has broken the spell and guys can continue to sort of match up some for themselves.

And to answer your other question, I think that, yeah, winning makes you hungry to do it again because it just feels so darn good. The moment of elation, as a professional golfer, you lose - well, most of us lose 90 percent of the time. And you don't want to get too good at losing, but you got to winning just, it makes you realize and it reminds you about why you practice hard and why you play the game. And it's not necessarily the trophy that feels so great, it's knowing that you've answered the doubts in your own head, you've answered the questions, you've taken on the challenge and you've risen to it. So those feelings of self accomplishment are great in the moment and I think that that's what inspires you to try and win more golf tournaments.

Q. What were those moments like while you're waiting for Phil to finish? You're in that room with Kate, you're looking at the historical photos, talking to her, it looked like at one point you didn't even want to watch the TV.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I just really didn't want to be premature with any celebration out of respect to Phil and obviously out of the fact that he's a world class player and can pull a rabbit out of the hat at any point. Also I learned a tough lesson in Dubai end of last year. I finished and in a sense celebrated as if I thought I won the Tournament, and Rory finished with five straight birdies to beat me by two. So I just kind of felt like I felt good that I had done enough, to sort of walk away with my head held high and that's why I was emotional, really, for my dad's point of view, I felt like that I had given everything. But I didn't want to sort of be hugging and high fiving and doing all that until it was official.

Q. You mentioned earlier the scar tissue surrounding the early stages of your career. Was that hard to deal with partly because of the absence of your father and your mentor and did he ever say anything to you about envisioning you winning a major?

JUSTIN ROSE: I think my dad always believed that I was capable of this. He always also did say when he was close to passing away, he kind of told my mom, don't worry, Justin will be okay. He'll know what to do. He kind of believed in me to be my own man. And I think that I took a lot of confidence from that. But yeah, the scar tissue on the golf course, I think that it's just taken, it's like anything, it just takes time to heal. And it was a pretty traumatic start to my pro career. I've never really talked about it because you don't want to admit to that being the case, but I think when you've got past something you can talk openly about it. And it's sort of in the moment like this, can you talk about how I feel like I've come full circle confidence wise and game development wise.

Q. Those two swings on 18, how satisfying is it to execute under those circumstances? And then what was your process mentally just to stay composed in that much pressure?

JUSTIN ROSE: There's definitely some deep breathing going on. You sort of want to bring yourself back into the moment. I worked really hard on my rhythm today. That's one thing that can get off when you get a bit tight under pressure, you can often get a little bit quick. So I really worked on rhythm with my swing out there under pressure. And that's as simple as I kept it. And for the rest of it, I trusted that my pattern in my golf swing, I think that I guess I answered the other thing, I trusted myself. And then you just close your eyes and you make a swing and you sort of hope to see it going down the fairway. Because you can't control it either. You got to make a free swing. And I think if you get tight, you start to steer it a little bit, that doesn't work either. So it's just about getting up there and being as committed as you can and letting go.

Q. Could you rank, please, the various challenges that Merion presents that allowed 281 to be a winning score?

JUSTIN ROSE: I just think that pin placements obviously on the short holes, there's a way of tucking them that even with the greens being soft there was a few pin placements you couldn't really get to that were tucked on the down slopes, over bunkers. Had it been firm, those pin placements would have been even tougher to get to. But I think that the 281 comes from the fact that the last five holes you need to hit nine shots in regulation, solid golf shots, otherwise you likely are going to make a bogey.

I felt that if you missed a fairway on either of those, any of those holes, you were pretty much going to make a bogey. They were tough greens to up and down the ball to. So really if you missed a shot, you were making bogey. A lot of other golf tournaments, especially Regular Tour events, you can miss a lot of shots and still make par. And I felt like this week there wasn't, that wasn't the case. Also the short par 4s, if you got out of position off the tee, they were second shot holes and if you were out of position, you could then, if you got greedy, one thing I tried to do at Merion was basically if the course offered me a bogey, I took bogey. I don't think I made a double all week. And I think that that's probably a large reason why I was able to sort of shoot 281 and be good enough.

Q. Follow up, you and Lee Trevino obviously play very different types of golf, but if you two were to compare his 280 and your 281, do you think the emotions behind the scores would be similar or different?

JUSTIN ROSE: Sorry, I didn't hear the beginning.

Q. Trevino's 280 and your 281, very different methods, but do you think the underlying emotion of how you get to those scores are similar?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I wasn't throwing any snakes around on the first tee. (Laughter.) I think I went about it just in a one foot in front of another fashion. Just really trying to commit to game plan, I mean, Trevino was a great hitter of the golf ball. He kept the ball in front of him all the time. And that's obviously what does pay off at the U.S. Open. So the method to how it probably happened, absolutely, he probably had a game plan, he probably hit many fairways, many greens, didn't try and do anything too special I would imagine. I don't exactly know how he went about it. But I can only imagine that good solid golf, to win a tournament at 280, 281, it means you're playing a tough test. There's no other way to win than just play good solid golf.

Q. Did Adam's win at Augusta kind of resonate with you any differently just because when he was young he had so many expectations placed on him and to see him finally break through in a Major, did you take anything from that victory?

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. I took a couple things away from that victory. One, that I feel I prepared actually with Adam pretty much in the Bahamas before. We both were there the week before the Masters, and we had a couple games. And my game was in great shape, his game was in great shape. I took his money both times we played before the Masters. I thought that's not fair that he went and won the tournament. But I consider him a contemporary of mine and a great friend of mine. He sent me a text message after that, after we were - after I congratulated him, he said to me, this is your time, this is your time, this is our time, to win these tournaments. With 32, we have been around quite awhile, we paid our dues in some senses.

The other thing that I really learned from Adam was that I wasn't scared of the heartache of losing one. The way he handled himself at Lytham, I think, is something that he needs as much praise on as winning the Masters. I think it's amazing the way he has just been himself after that loss and after that win. That's something that I think I learned the most from him from was how he dealt with that disappointment. And I was willing to put my game on the line, was willing to put my confidence on the line by just putting myself in that situation and just because I saw how he handled it and how he was capable of coming through it. Rory did the same thing after the Masters. Coming on to win this tournament a few months later. So you can learn a lot from that.

Q. How would you compare the emotion of winning the U.S. Open today to being a part of the winning Ryder Cup team at Medinah last fall?

JUSTIN ROSE: I think the celebrations are much more fun when you win as a team. Because everybody's egging each other one and collectively you've achieved something. So the camaraderie of it all is a very unique and very special thing. You've done it together. It's like a real, it's an amazing moment. And I think that was very, very special. And probably very unique in the way in which we did win it. That's probably something that I'll never feel again. This is just like this is a journey. This is like, this is just such a satisfying feeling. And it goes back 20, 30 years for me of dreaming, of hoping, of practicing, of calloused hands. Just really, I think that's in a sense this could be the most satisfying, because there's no one helping you along the way. You've had to do it the hard way, you've had to do it yourself.

MODERATOR: Justin Rose, the 113th U.S. Open champion. Congratulations and happy Father's Day to you.

JUSTIN ROSE: Thank you and to you all. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you all very much for your coverage of the championship. We look forward it seeing you next year.

JUSTIN ROSE: Thanks, guys.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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