Phil Mickelson is now a six-time U.S. Open runner-up. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
It’s funny how the little things add up to determine a winner. Justin Rose had a pair of putts just topple into the cup on the front nine. He also got some bad fortune on the 14th hole. It was raining just hard enough to put on a rain suit. Rose looked uncomfortable with the jacket as he played a bunker shot and semi-shanked the ball out of the sand leading to bogey. His approach into the 15th was within a foot of funneling toward the cup; instead it caught a slope and spun to the front of the green. Every player in the field had similar occurrences over the course of 72 holes. The key is to give yourself the opportunity for good luck to occur. Rose withstood the bad breaks and took advantage of the good fortune leading to victory.
Merion: I don’t know if anyone, at the start of the week, truly understood just how difficult it’s become to stage the U.S. Open at Merion. People shared their homes to accommodate the championship. The players’ lounge was in somebody’s living room. The driving range was a half hour drive through traffic. People gave up their back yards so interviews could be conducted and their front yards to parking. Was it worth it? Will the U.S. Open return to Merion? That will be a discussion for USGA executives. The club would like to host the 2030 U.S. Open in observance of Bobby Jones grand slam.
Flagsticks: The wicker baskets took some getting used to this week. Players are accustomed to looking at the flags to determine wind direction and intensity. That wasn’t an option this week. There were some holes with grandstands that had flags attached and competitors were grateful for those opportunities. The wicker baskets were just one of the slight changes that took players out of their comfort zone.
Tiger’s woes: All you need to know about Tiger Woods’ U.S. Open is inconsistency. His scorecard shows 21 holes of bogey or higher. Yes, 21 holes. That’s bogey or higher 29 percent of the time. Was that inconsistency due to mechanics or injury? Tiger gives little personal injury information. Maybe he figures it’s bad form to make excuses or maybe he doesn’t want fellow competitors to acquire any insight. What we do know for certain is Tiger struggled with the speed of the greens for the second straight tournament. He never got the pace of his putts correct at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance and did not this week either.
Set-up: This week was a return to yesteryear for the U. S. Open. Players had become accustomed to Executive Director Mike Davis’ “graduated rough.” That was not the case this week. Golf balls that missed the fairway by a yard were buried deep in the grass. What did players think of the setup? Zach Johnson was very critical, Phil Mickelson called it “the best setup to an Open course he’d ever seen.” The penal set up was thought necessary to offset a lack of length at Merion.
Runner-up: Phil Mickelson is the most creative player on the PGA TOUR. His mind sees shots nobody else can. That creativity allowed him to hole out a 76-yard wedge from the rough. Mickelson arrived at the U.S. Open with a fifth wedge and without a driver. He also may be the most aggressive player in golf. Mickelson sailed a wedge over the green at the 126-yard 13th, leading to bogey. He has a record six U.S. Open runner-up finishes. Maybe he is too aggressive to win the U.S. Open, or maybe he is just star-crossed when it comes to our national championship. Shakespeare wrote the fault “lies not in the stars but in ourselves.” Mickelson hit 15 greens in the final round but made just one birdie putt.
Bogeys: Raymond Floyd once said there are more bogeys made in the final round of the U.S. Open than any tournament on earth. The final round was filled with strange shots. Steve Stricker shanked a ball. Luke Donald hit a volunteer in the head with a wayward shot and played the next four holes in 5 over. Phil Mickelson did not make a double bogey all week and had two of them in a three-hole stretch. The combination of a difficult golf course and pressure led to unlikely results.
Winner, winner: On Wednesday I wrote:
“I like Justin Rose. His combination of length and accuracy means lots of wedges into greens and Rose ranks second on TOUR in approaches between 50-125 yards, hitting it an average distance of 14 feet 3 inches.
“Keep Calm and Carry On. Justin Rose wins the U.S. Open.”
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here