Justin Rose made his mistake one hole early and got it out of the way before playing in the sudden death playoff against Shawn Stefani for the Quicken Loans National title at Congressional Country Club.
Rose, who was tied for the lead heading into the 72nd hole, pulled his drive left on no. 18 in regulation. From the trees, he tried hitting a sweeping punch-out hook with his 4-iron, except it didn’t work out too well and ended up finding the water.
Rose left himself with a 14-footer for bogey and his caddie Mark Fulcher, knowing Stefani had bogeyed the 17th, told his boss to “make it.” That’s exactly what Rose did, giving himself a second shot to conquer the hole.
“I kind of made a hash of it a little bit, poor tee shot down the left, and I took the smaller gap of the two that I had available and I felt pretty comfortable that I would not hit the tree,” said Rose. “But, I put too much draw spin on the ball and once it got going left with the slope, it had no chance of staying dry.
“I guess it all boiled down to my caddie said to me, ‘Listen, Shawn just bogeyed 17. You’re tied for the lead. Just essentially make this putt.’ So everything else was forgotten at that point. I wiped the slate clean and just focused on my putt on 18 — an amazing feeling in any sort of championship, when you make a putt like that that means something like that on the 18 hole, that’s special.”
Standing once again on the 18th tee in the first extra hole, Rose striped his drive down the middle, hit it on the green and two-putted for a low-stress par. Meanwhile, Stefani, who had parred it in regulation, may have had some nerves running through him as it was his first time in this kind of position — and it may have showed when he pulled his drive. His second shot rolled into the water hazard, guarding the green. He ended up posting a double-bogey.
Rose claimed his first title since his U.S. Open victory at Merion last June, and interesting enough, with how difficult Congressional played this past week, it felt like he had won another U.S. Open.
“Congressional got its reputation back after the U.S. Open,” said Rose. “I really enjoy this type of golf and this type of test.”
When the 2011 U.S. Open was staged at Congressional, the weather didn’t cooperate and the rain-soaked course lent itself to a birdie fest and a runaway win by Rory McIlroy.
Rose also became a second-time winner of the tournament hosted by Tiger Woods. He first won the event at Aronimink, right outside of Philadelphia, in 2010. With his other victories coming at rather classic courses, Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion, and now, Congressional, perhaps Rose’s eye best suits a certain type of track.
“I think it’s great to win on a golf course like this, because you can’t sort of luck into it, if you like,” he said. “You’ve got to play good golf, and through spells this week, I had to rely on different parts of my game all week.
“Thursday, I just really struggled and then had to dig deep mentally on the back nine, and Friday, I putted much better. Saturday, I hit the driver really, really well. Today, I struggled off the tee. And you know, I had to find a different way to get it done today. So, up-and-downing it on 17 and holing the putt at 18; today was a bit more of grinding it out. I felt like all aspects of my game were tested this week and it’s really nice to win in that fashion.”