U.S. Open saw pair of winners

The headlines -rightfully and deservedly so -scream out that England’s Justin Rose is the 2013 U.S. Open champion.

Indeed, the mild-mannered young man who we have watched grow from a raw but talented amateur to one of the best players in the world, wrote his name forever into the golf history books with his performance over four days at the Merion Golf Club.

In doing so, he once again denied Phil Mickelson the one title that eludes him year after frustratingly close year.

Mickelson, with enthusiastic members of the gallery chanting U.S.A! U.S.A! virtually every time he stroked the ball, once again had to settle for being the bridesmaid in his country’s national championship.

What a great story a Mickelson victory would have been. He was the talk of the tournament when he left following Wednesday’s practice round to fly to California to attend the eighth-grade graduation of his daughter, arriving back at Merion just 90 minutes before his Thursday morning opening-round tee time.

But that’s Phil. He’s a devout family man as well as a professional golfer and manages to balance those two important but distinct roles.

While Rose deserves every accolade that will come his way for the poise he displayed on a pressure-packed Sunday, he wasn’t the only winner. When USGA officials announced that the Merion Golf Club would be the site of this year’s U.S. Open, the criticisms were loud and -unlike Merion -long.

The course was less than 7,000 yards. It included a 98-yard hole and a par 4 just over 300 yards. This would be like holding the professional billiards championship on a six-foot table.

Give Merion credit. It wasn’t a good venue for those who attended and it wasn’t golfer friendly for those who participated. But it presented the worldwide TV audience with more drama than any other program on NBC can muster.

The little course that could did. It ate up the world’s best golfers. Shoot par on virtually any other course in a PGA tournament and your paycheck will be paltry, at least by professional golf standards. But par over the past four days would have netted you more than $1 million, not to mention much more in endorsements, plus golf immortality as a U.S. Open champion.

On Sunday, of the 73 golfers who still were around for the final day, only five managed to break par. Rose, who started out the day 1-over par, maintained that score, and that’s all he needed to do as golfer after golfer fell by the wayside.

Those of us who are Tiger Woods fans are beginning to realize just how far he has slipped, both in his mental and physical games. He no longer carries himself with that confident swagger. It’s almost as if he is waiting for something to go wrong, a common trait of many losing teams and athletes.

But this tournament was too good to focus on who lost.

It belonged to Justin Rose and Merion Golf Club.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com