THREE weeks ago, during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, I caught up with Justin Rose and told him: “You’re swinging as well as anyone in the world now – it’s a Major next for you.”
On Sunday night I was thrilled to see those words come true, as Rose completed a magnificent week’s golf by winning the US Open and ending his wait for one of the big prizes.
His all-round quality sets him apart from many of his contemporaries and was evident as he kept four-time Major winner Phil Mickelson at bay, ultimately finishing two clear of the American at Merion.
Rose resoundingly won it too – nobody blew it – and the way he played the last few treacherous holes summed up his display. The tee shot at 18 was magnificent, but his second, with a four iron, was phenomenal. He will never hit a greater shot than that as long as he lives.
Regular readers will know I’ve been tipping him to win a Major in 2013 since the end of last year, following his heroics in Europe’s improbable comeback to defeat America in that astonishing Ryder Cup.
Rose memorably birdied the last two holes to beat Mickelson in one of the pivotal singles contests, and I think what he did to Phil that day would have been an enormous psychological advantage on Sunday.
While I can’t talk about how it feels to close out a Major win, other players have told me that nothing surpasses the pressure of a Ryder Cup – so having handled that must have stood him in good stead this time. Rose spoke fondly of Adam Scott’s Masters triumph this year being an inspiration and, like the Australian, he was sensible, calm, played the course rather than the occasion and stuck to his own game. It worked.
During those fraught closing stages Rose always looked like a man in control, both of his emotions and his game. One of the strengths he has developed is a total inner confidence; he really believes in himself now.
In becoming the first Englishman to win a Major since 1996, he has beaten some talented contemporaries, such as Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, to the prize.
Part of the reason is that swing. It is simple, has improved over the years and is now of the highest quality. For anyone looking for a swing to copy, you can’t do much better than Rose’s.
One of his downfalls in the past has been a failure to finish off good work, but at Merion he putted well. Using a putter with a weighted grip that feels similar to a belly putter, he was releasing nicely.
Mickelson deserves 10 out of 10 for effort, but his habit of missing fairways cost him dearly. At the 18th, when he needed a birdie to tie with Rose, he couldn’t find his target off the tee and paid the price.
What now for Rose? He is up to No3 in the world rankings, so the obvious next steps for him are overhauling Tiger Woods at the top and accumulating more Major titles.
Muirfield, where the Open will be held next month, is similar to Merion in that it is not about driving long, but making sure you hit fairways and greens. It should suit Justin Rose fantastically.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. He has won 21 European Tour titles in a career spanning 40 years. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam