Sunday, June 07, 2015

DUBLIN, Ohio — Surreal, all of it. A swing of emotions that were so contrasting and so personal that five years later they are still vivid. One day, Justin Rose was accepting accolades for having won one of the most prestigious US PGA Tour tournaments, the next he was just another golfer in a long line of failures walking to his car in a warm twilight.
“It was all so different,” Kate Rose recalled. “Standing on the green at 18 with Jack and Barbara Nicklaus one day, then the next, no one was even watching — except for me and (their son) Leo.”
Sunday’s prize that year for winning the Memorial? A cool $1.08 million.
Monday’s gift for shooting 68-72 in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier? A pat on the back but sincere regrets, because he wasn’t offered a spot into the season’s second major, at Pebble Beach, no less.
A shame, remembers Rose, “because I played a great stretch of golf, which kind of made me believe I had a chance at the U.S. Open. Sort of made the qualifying very disappointing.
What is remembered more clearly that week five years ago was that Rose was the ultimate example of how even with best intentions, something can slip through the cracks. Admirably offering exemptions to the top 60 in world ranking, the USGA made the cutoff late May.
Unfortunately, Rose at the time was ranked 66th.
No worries, he put his fortunes in a 36-hole sectional, and focused on the Memorial Tournament. Then 29, the Englishman was at an intriguing point in his career, so solid on many fronts, but “I was feeling the pressure for a number of years to notch my first PGA Tour victory.”
With a pulsating finish, he did that week. Four behind Rickie Fowler through 54 holes, Rose fired a closing 66 and won by three over Fowler, who shot 73. “Got the monkey off my back,” Rose said.
It just didn’t get him a spot into the U.S. Open field, a reality that unsettled many of his supporters in the media, but never did Rose complain. “Hey just said, ‘Those are the rules,’ “ Kate Rose said. “That’s Justin.”
As she recalled that unforgettable set of events, Kate Rose shared a smile with her husband. Justin Rose, riding the momentum of a birdie-birdie finish late Friday, carried that good feeling into Saturday’s third round of the Memorial and turned an impressive 6-under 66 into a three-stroke lead. Having started the day three off of David Lingmerth’s lead, Rose finished it at 15-under 201, now clear of Francesco Molinari (69 — 204) and Lingmerth (72 — 204), with Jim Furyk (70 — 205) alone in fourth.
“Obviously, a lot has been going right,” Rose said, and while he meant in 2015, because he has already won a tournament in New Orleans and finished second in the Masters, he could have been talking about his career since the 2010 Memorial. Rose has followed that with at least one win in each of the five PGA Tour seasons, and with seven on his resume, he’s a bonafide superstar.
One of those seven includes the 2013 U.S. Open, and there were more than a few suggestions two years ago at Merion that Rose’s triumph was a worthy reward for having been short-changed in 2010. After all, his victory at the Memorial that year bumped him to No. 33rd in the Official World Golf Ranking and it was hard to believe he wasn’t exempt; but deadlines were deadlines and it didn’t matter to the USGA.
Rose had to go through qualifying.
“I remember walking around and chasing Leo (then 15 months old) for 36 holes and people looking and doing double-takes. ‘Didn’t you just win yesterday?’ they asked. All of it was pretty grounding,” Kate Rose said.
Clearly, the USGA could even see the snafu, so starting in 2011 it adjusted its qualifying list; in addition to a top 60 cutoff in late may, there would be a top 60 cutoff after the Memorial. Good for others, just no good in 2010 for Rose.
“I was a trailblazer,” Rose said with a laugh, moments after addressing the media as this year’s 54-hole leader. “But, no, none of the boys have thanked me.”
Maybe a guy such as Andy Sullivan will change that Sunday, because if things play out favorably, the unheralded Englishman will benefit from what developed out of Rose’s misfortune in 2010. 
Presently 58th in the OWGR, the 29-year-old Sullivan needs a positive week at the Memorial to move comfortably inside the top 60 and be eligible for an exemption when the second cutoff is applied June 15. Given that he shot 72 — 206 and is tied for fifth, just five off the lead, it’s safe to say Sullivan is in good shape headed into Sunday.
The thing is, no one is in as good a shape as world No. 6 Rose, whose confidence is enormous and his momentum plentiful.
Not even the disappointing memory of his failure at that 36-hole qualifier just one day after winning the Memorial can spoil things. “He handled it all so well,” Kate said, recalling the swing of emotions in 2010. “He said that some day the rules will be corrected, but for now, he’d play on.”
He was right. And he has. Beautifully, we might add.



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