RAVAGED, careworn, fidgety and strangely jet-lagged. And that was only me after this latest US Open. Lord knows how the actual competitors felt after four days yomping/crawling across Merion’s exacting acres.
Mostly, I suspect, they felt tired. Very tired. Except for Justin Rose, who will still be riding a high cloud of elation, slight surprise and wonderment. He will feel this way not so much because he won but because of how he won.
There won’t be a plaque for him next to Ben Hogan’s in the middle of the eighteenth fairway but there should be a postscript engraved into it…something along the lines of PS: Justin Rose did it himself with a four iron in 2013!
Sixty years ago Hogan needed a one iron for his approach to this carefully disguised par five (par six?) that masquerades as a par four but times and equipment move on. When his final drive off the last tee finished a couple of yards from this plaque, Justin suspected that this was indeed his moment.
Behind him Phil Mickelson could only glance nervously at leaderboards that told the story of this final round in cold statistics. Mathematically, the American knew he was almost certainly toast and destined for a sixth runner-up spot in the old competition he so wants to win. Nine months ago Justin bludgeoned him into submission in Chicago, now he knew it was happening again in Philadelphia. To his immense credit he took both heavy blows with great, good grace.
Already the debate is shifting towards whether Merion was a course too far, that the USGA had collaborated with someone’s devil to set up an exam paper that tested a subject no-one knew much about.
Well, look at that final day leaderboard and tell me that the class wasn’t there. That’s right, you can’t. Wee Rory and Tiger might have flailed themselves into oblivion but so what.
There may have been much more risk than reward at Merion but now and then this is a good thing. The USGA always set up their stage this way, it’s just that in Merion they had a theatre like almost nowhere else with is humps and hollows, it’s jungle rough and its perverse, contrary greens.
For what it’s worth I thought it was brilliant. Sure, you needed luck but then when don’t winners need good fortune in this game? Answer: Never.
It is thirty years since I was there to watch David Graham win this glittering trophy and it will probably be another thirty years at least until the US Open returns. That, judged anyway you want, is about right. Otherwise we may drive some of these chaps even mader than most of them already are.
What you can be certain about is that Rose loves it. Understated, accurate golf is at the core of his game. And nerve, lots of nerve. A nicer bloke could not have won. Oh, and this means the UK has won three of the last four US Opens. Did someone mention England specifically? Maybe they did but I don’t. As someone said recently, we’re all in this together.