Justin Rose of England looks skyward in honor of his late father after finishing… (Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images )
ARDMORE, Pa. — Justin Rose received a text message last week telling him to "go out and be the man your dad taught you to be." After he finished his round but before he had won the U.S. Open on Sunday at Merion Golf Club, Rose pointed skyward as a nod to his late father and coach, Ken.
"The look up to the heavens was absolutely for my dad," Rose said. "Father's Day was not lost on me today. You don't have opportunities to really dedicate a win to someone you love. And today was about him."
Rose shot an even-par 70 Sunday, capping it with one of the loveliest pars he has ever made, to win the U.S. Open by two shots over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
Rose, 32, finished one over par and became the first English player to win the U.S. Open in 43 years. He shared the experience with the crowd, mingling with them holding the Open trophy in one hand and a wicker-basket flag in the other.
Rose's elation sat in stark contrast to Mickelson's "heartbreak," a word he used again Sunday to describe his sixth runner-up finish in this championship. Mickelson's four-over 74, his highest round of the week, appeared to prod the 43-year-old toward that most difficult of resignations.
If a one-shot Sunday lead, a golf course he loved and a system he trusted weren't enough to produce the breakthrough victory, what will be?.
"If I had won today or if I ultimately win, I'll look back at the other Opens and think that it was a positive," Mickelson said. "If I never get the Open, then I'll look back and think that, every time I think of the U.S. Open, I just think of heartbreak."
For Rose, the victory might be enough to persuade him to buy a house on Philadelphia's Main Line. Three years ago he won the AT&T National at nearby Aronimink, an equally difficult course that many players say could hold a major as well.
In the Open, Rose played Merion without a double bogey while tying Day and Luke Donald for the most birdies (15). Rose made consecutive birdies twice Sunday, including at holes 12 and 13 that briefly made him the only player under par. But it was a par that ultimately won him the championship.
Rose took a one-shot lead to the 18th hole, which yielded no birdies on the weekend. That gave Rose an opportunity if he could just make par.
Rose split the fairway with his tee shot, which landed near a plaque commemorating a shot Ben Hogan hit on his way to the 1950 U.S. Open title. Hogan used a one-iron to reach the green, make par and force a playoff, which he won.
Rose hit a four-iron to the back of the green and nearly holed a chip with a fairway metal. After tapping in for par, Rose wiped away a tear, then waited in the clubhouse, where he nervously looked at Merion's historic collection of memorabilia.
"That image is kind of hard not to escape," Rose said, "that this was my turn to kind of have that iconic moment, I guess, for me. And I hit a good four-iron, I felt I did it justice."
Mickelson, who heard choruses of "Happy Birthday" on Sunday, could have made this a coronation early. But he lipped a birdie putt at the first hole, missed a four-footer for birdie at No. 2 and then made three-putt double bogey at the third.
That hole, a par-three, played 266 yards into a pretty stiff wind. Mickelson elected during the Open not to carry a driver.
"I didn't really have the shot to get back there," he said. "I needed a driver."
At the fifth, Mickelson sprayed his tee shot left — "Unbelievable," he said — leading to a second double bogey that could have smothered his chances. Instead, Mickelson followed five holes later with the shot of the day — surpassing Shawn Stefani's hole in one at 17 — to regain the lead.
With 75 yards and a wedge in hand, Mickelson holed a shot from a fluffy lie in the rough to make eagle and return to even par. With birdie opportunities coming on the next three holes, Mickelson expected that to be a launch pad.
It wasn't. At the 121-yard 13th, which 24 other players birdied Sunday, Mickelson overcooked a pitching wedge into the back rough. "Too much club there," he said of the shot, which produced bogey.
Two holes later, Mickelson hit another poor wedge, coming up short this time, and made bogey after trying a desperate chip from the green. Mickelson said he "quit" on the shot instead of aggressively trying to hit past the hole.
"Those wedge shots on 13 and 15," Mickelson said, "are the two I'll look back on."
And not only those. Mickelson had a number of birdie chances on the weekend that either hit the cup or just missed the edge. Unlike some other runner-up finishes, Winged Foot in 2006 notably, Mickelson will rue missed opportunities rather than chances given away.
"This one's probably the toughest for me," he said, "because, at 43, and coming so close five times, it would have changed way I look at this tournament altogether and the way I would have looked at my record. Except I just keep feeling heartbreak."