Rose is no stranger to Philadelphia fans. He prevailed just down the road from Merion at Aronimink in the AT&T National in 2010 in Tiger Woods’ signature tournament. And when he walked off the golf course and headed to the scoring area, fans offered up a warm standing ovation to a player they know very well.
Rose became deeply emotional after he made his final putt, looking skyward for several seconds and pointing his index finger in the air, a tribute to his late father Ken, who coached his son growing up and died of leukemia in 2002. Rose also will be forever remembered for sinking a long chip shot from the rough at the 72nd hole at the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale, when he tied for fourth place as a 17-year-old amateur.
“I texted my mum last night and said ‘let’s do it for dad,’ ” Rose said. “She texted to me that would be fantastic. I miss my dad immensely. Today was a fitting time to honor him. I think I conducted myself in a way he would be proud of.”
That shot at Birkdale 15 years ago evoked a roar so loud it shook tents all around, and a similar joyful noise was heard here Sunday, when Mickelson hit his wedge shot from 76 yards on the fairway into the hole at the short 280-yard 10th hole for an eagle. He leaped in the air in celebration that momentarily got him back into the lead, but bogeys at the 13th and 15th holes went a long way toward derailing his chances.
This was a day that started with eight players within four shots of Mickelson’s one-shot 54- hole lead. But one by one, the contenders become pretenders. There was Steve Stricker, trying to become the oldest Open champion at 46, making a triple bogey on his second hole with two shots, including a shank, out of bounds.
There was Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, the 2011 Masters champion, tied for the lead after a birdie at the first hole, finishing his front nine by playing the last seven holes in 7-over, including a double bogey at No. 6. And there was Luke Donald, playing with countryman Rose, posting a 42 on his front nine.
Day, third in the Masters in April and Open runner-up in 2011, made three back-nine bogeys after a birdie at the 10th got him a share of the lead.
And of course there was Mickelson, “Philly Mick,” despondent in Philadelphia.
“If I had won today or if I ultimately win [the Open], I’ll look back at the other [second-place] Opens and think that was a positive,” Mickelson said. “If I never get the Open, then I’ll look back and every time I think about the U.S. Open, I’ll just think of heartbreak.”