US OPEN champion Justin Rose has offered sympathy to runner-up Phil Mickelson, after his maiden Major victory at Merion late on Sunday night condemned the American to a miserable 43rd birthday.
Mickelson admitted that his sixth career second place at the US Open had been his most painful, and Rose, whose two-shot victory saw him become the first Englishman to win a Major since Nick Faldo in 1996, paid tribute to his rival.
“This is definitely a tough defeat for Phil,” he said. “He’s such a great guy to play golf with and to have on 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.”
Rose’s battle with Mickelson echoed their singles contest at last year’s Ryder Cup, which the Englishman won as the tide turned dramatically and decisively in Europe’s favour.
“I learned a lot about Phil at the Ryder Cup. 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,” Rose added.
“So I feel for him. 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.”