Full Bloom

Justin Rose, the hottest player in the game, heads to St. Andrews in search of his first major title
July 11, 2010

The British Open is next week, and in the office pool everybody's all Tiger this and Phil that, right? But you know better. You know that the golfer of the moment is a tall, pale Englishman with perfect posture who might have won the U.S. Open, if only he had qualified for it. Justin Rose, who turns 30 at the end of the month, heads to St. Andrews with wins in two of his last three events. Who else can say that? Nobody.

Rose won in early June, at the Memorial, Jack Nicklaus's tournament. He cooled his heels while Graeme McDowell, Gregory Havret & Co. were playing knock hockey at Pebble Beach. Rose had a three-shot lead through 54 holes the following week, at the Tour stop in Hartford, closing with a 75 and settling for a ninth-place finish. Then came last week, when the Tour slipped into Philadelphia to play the AT&T National at Aronimink, a hilly gem with massive greens that confounded Woods, among others.

On Sunday, Rose had a five-shot lead as he made the turn, but then came three-putt bogeys on 10 and 11. Which Justin would play the final seven holes? Ruthless Justin, who got it done at the Memorial? Or the one who blew it in Hartford?

Neither, it turned out. Rose closed out the day with seven straight two-putt pars to win by a shot over Ryan Moore and earn $1.12 million. (His rounds were 69, 64, 67 and 70—10 under par, and stout.) It was as if Nick Faldo, who won the 1987 British Open by making 18 straight pars on Sunday, had climbed down from the CBS broadcast tower and showed the lad how to do it.

Faldo is the last Englishman to win a British Open, and Rose, a protégé, is already part of British Open lore. At the '98 Open at Royal Birkdale, as a 17-year-old amateur, Rose holed out from the rough on the last hole to tie for fourth. It equals his best finish in any major. So far.

The Queen's golfers are on a heck of a run. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland won the Tour stop in Charlotte. His countryman, Mr. McDowell, won at Pebble. Lee Westwood of England won in Memphis. And then there's Rose.

He has homes in Orlando and London but was born in South Africa, as was Gary Player, who won the '62 PGA Championship at Aronimink. On Sunday, Rose wore black pants and a white shirt, the color combination Player loved. David Feherty, the CBS golf announcer, a Texan by way of greater Belfast, showed more holiday spirit, wearing a little U.S. flag above his CBS baseball cap. As Rose was coming up 18 in the final round, three American servicemen stood in the fairway receiving an honor from the tournament. Rose doffed his cap in appreciation of their service, went to the green and two-putted for par one last time. Happy Independence Day, laddie. Philadelphia's a good place to celebrate it. Next stop: St. Andrews, Scotland.

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CHIP SHOTS

Long Road

Dating back to 1980, the infamous Road Hole at St. Andrews, the par-4 17th, holds six spots in the ranking of the 15 hardest holes in major championships. So for this year's Open the R&A, naturally, decided to make it harder. A new tee, which sits on an adjacent driving range, adds 35 yards, pushing the hole to 490. The idea is to force players to hit driver and then a long-iron into a green sandwiched between a devilish bunker and a gravel path (below), as they had to in the years before equipment advances made it more of a three-wood, seven-iron play. The despised rough added to both sides of the fairway in 2005 has been cut back a touch, but exactly how the hole will play remains something of a mystery, and trading one bastardization (rough) for another (length) has done little to appease traditionalists and design buffs.

PHOTOFRED VUICHCOMING ON Rose, who starred as an amateur in the '98 British, has won two of his last three PGA Tour starts. PHOTOFRED VUICH

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)