Merion Golf Club, Philadelphia, PA
Par-70, 6,996 Yards
What a fantastic weekend of golf. This past weekend the U.S. Open was full of drama and a leaderboard in which blinking might have made one miss changes at the top.
The golf course, historic Merion, was a stern test for the best players in the world. The USGA (United States Golf Association) had the course setup in “typical” U.S. Open fashion. What does that mean? It means that the greens were extremely fast, the rough extremely deep and the fairways extremely narrow. U.S. Open setups are tough physically and perhaps even tougher mentally. The mental challenge is in knowing that any mis-hit shot will result in a very bad situation which will likely cost a player 1-2 strokes. This is the the case from any place on the course, tee, fairway or even green.
The cream rose to the top as the weekend progressed. By the beginning of Sunday’s final round Phil Mickelson had the lead. Would he finally break the jinx of coming up 2nd in U.S. Opens and claim a victory? Would players who were at or near the lead without major wins finally break through? Those players included Hunter Mahan who was playing in the final group with Phil Mickelson, as well as Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Steve Stricker, Jason Day and Billy Horschel.
In typical Mickelson fashion, Phil was up and down, making double bogeys one moment and then holing out on par-4’s for eagle the next. By the back nine Merion and the USGA setup took out contenders llike Jason Dufner, Luke Donald and Steve Stricker. Down the stretch roughly 4-5 of the top horses in the race had a chance.
The two final holes proved pivotal. The player who played those two the best, with the most quality ball striking, was Justin Rose. As Rose saved par on the final hole to finish at +1, he knew it was unlikely that the only player who had a realistic chance of tying him, Phil Mickelson, would catch him. Phil would have to make birdie on the 18th, a hole that yielded zero birdies in 147 attempts that day.
Phil’s drive on the tee of #18 ended up in the left rough, leaving him nearly an impossible chance at birdie. His 2nd shot came up short and the birdie chip attempt failed. At that moment, Justin Rose’s career and life changed forever.
Justin Rose: 2013 U.S. Open champion!