Rose comes of age

Justin Rose hoists the U.S. Open trophy on the 18th green after the final round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Joel Kowsky) Justin Rose’s magnificent US Open triumph was a victory for the good guy, the hard-worker, the gentleman and the good son.

Whether it will turn out to be a godsend for English golf and the golden generation that until Sunday failed to live up to the hype, remains to be seen.

In denying Phil Mickelson the title he wants above all others, Rose ended a 17-year wait for an English victory in a men’s major championship that goes back to Nick Faldo’s heart-breaking dismantling of Greg Norman at the Masters in 1996.

Justin Rose shakes hands with Luke Donald after finishing their round during the final round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Hunter Martin)For years now we have been hearing about Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Rose as St George’s answer to the European big five of  Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Sandy Lyle.

But in breaking the mystique of the majors for his compatriots, is it reasonable to assume that Rose can play the same pied piper role that Pádraig Harrington interpreted so well when he opened the floodgates for European golf with that memorable Open Championship win at Carnoustie in 2007.

It was the first win by a European in a major for eight years and Ireland’s first for 60 years. Others soon followed with Harrington picking up two more majors  before Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy (twice) broke through to the other side.

Justin Rose makes a birdie on the 13th green during the final round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Hunter Martin) “It’s going to mean a lot,” Donald said on Sunday after imploding alongside his countryman.  “It’s been too long, really.  I think we’ve had a lot of talent come out of England and hopefully we’ve broken our bad period.  This will be a great week for Justin and for England.”

While there are many differences between Harrington and Rose as gofers - the former an imperious ball-striker with an often indifferent short game, the latter so often the opposite — they have a lot in common.

Both are committed family men who idolised their late fathers and did not achieve their lifelong dreams until the pater familias had passed on to his ultimate reward.

Justin Rose misses a birdie on the 10th green during the final round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Hunter Martin) Both are perfect role models for youngsters in the same way that Tiger Woods and his acolyte, the club-throwing/bending Rory McIlroy, simply aren’t.

Psychology has been key to helping them overcome their demons to win the big one.

Harrington had 22 second place finishes on tour at one stage of his career before going on to become a multiple major winner while Rose missed his first 21 cuts as a professional.

“What’s the appropriate shot, execute it, accept it, move on,” Rose said, describing his strategy at Merion.

Justin Rose reacts after making his par putt on the 18th hole during the final round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Hunter Martin) Like Harrington with Bob Rotella, Rose had an able right hand man in sport psychologist Gio Valiante, who asked him to watch the Yoda’s famous discussion with Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back” when the young Jedi was asked to use his mind alone to raise a star-fighter for a swamp.

Yoda: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Luke: “Alright, I’ll try.”

Yoda: “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Valiante wanted Rose to realise “that he was finally mature enough to come into his own.”

Rose stood up the plate with a swing honed for four years by Sean Foley, the coach who has helped Tiger Woods deal with everything bar the inner demons that have prevented him winning that 15th major.

But Foley also had some general advice for Rose that epitomised the character required to become a true champion in every sense of the word.

Justin Rose plays his tee shot on the fifth hole during the final round at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. on Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Copyright USGA/Hunter Martin) “Sean did text me a very nice text this morning that was unrelated to golf,” Rose revealed.  “He said something along the lines of just go out there and be the man that your dad taught you to be and be the man that your kids can look up to, sort of be a role model.  So twofold.

“Really that was my goal today. It was about winning the U.S. Open, but it was also about honouring, I guess, great men that have come before us.”

Overcoming your shortcomings is part of golf and in showing you can learn the hard way and triumph, Rose set a perfect example for the likes of Westwood, Donald, Casey and Poulter to follow.

“When I was missing 21 cuts in a row, I was just trying to not fade away, really,” he said, recalling how the teenager who finished fourth at Royal Birkdale became a cut missing machine.  “I just didn’t want to be known as a one-hit wonder, Flash in the pan.
    
“I believed in myself inherently, deep down I always knew that I had a talent to play the game. And I simply thought that if I put talent and hard work together, surely it will work out in the end, in the long run.

“I think that the other thing that I was able to do during that time period is not beat myself further and further into the ground.”

Every golfer is different but it was Rose’s innate Englishness, his polite, no-nonsense approach and sensible attitude that helped him find the Holy Grail.

“I think my dad always believed that I was capable of this,” he said. “He always also did say when he was close to passing away, he kind of told my mom, don’t worry, Justin will be okay.  He’ll know what to do.  

“He kind of believed in me to be my own man. And I think that I took a lot of confidence from that.”