James Lawton: Justin Rose was one brilliantly programmed Englishman saying his day had come at the US Open
He had done his work, taken his blows and was as ready as he would ever be... he simply refused to be intimidated
Sometimes a man knows his time has come. He has done his work, taken his blows and thus he is as ready as he ever will be to claim his reward. That reality became inexorable when you watched Justin Rose carrying away his first major title in the small hours of yesterday morning.
On the historic and begrudging Merion track, which for four days had treated the heirs of Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones as though they were nothing so much as a bunch of impostors, Rose simply refused to be intimidated. If he had dwelt for a moment on the appalling record of English golfers in the majors – just two winners and seven titles (six of them belonging to Sir Nick Faldo) in 43 years – he pushed it aside along with his morning coffee.
There was no Ryder Cup camaraderie. No flag-waving, no collective momentum. There was just one lean, beautifully programmed and relatively young Englishman saying that this was the day, a month before his 33rd birthday, when he was going to make his life and his career.
Naturally, he made touching reference to his late father, a victim of leukaemia before he could enjoy this time of the fulfilment of the dreams nourished all those years ago back in Hampshire, and there was also the doffing of the golf cap to the controversial guru he shares with Tiger Woods, the stroke theorist Canadian Sean Foley who so recently was touting for business on Florida beaches. But as the agonies of the Tiger revealed plainly enough, a devoted father and a revolutionary coach can take you only so far. In the end, you have to go out and show you are your own man, your own creation.
Rose offered some compelling evidence that he had indeed achieved such a state of mind just two months ago at the US Masters, when it was pointed out that he had reached the optimum age for a seriously ambitious and talented golfer to claim his first Green Jacket. "Yes, I have been told that 32 is the average age of someone winning at Augusta for the first time and obviously I hope it is a good omen. I hope it is the magic number."
Until the moment of triumph at Merion it was not hard to detect a hint of weariness, though mostly good-natured, when he was required to revisit the vaulting expectations that came with his remarkable performance at Royal Birkdale, when he caught the imagination of the golf world with a 30-yard chip over a bunker and into the hole before tying for fourth place in the Open. Sir Michael Bonallack, secretary of the Royal and Ancient, no less, set the bar impossibly high when he declared, "He is England's answer to Tiger Woods." He wasn't, of course, he was a teenager entering a strange and formidable world, and he proved it quickly enough by missing the cut in his first 21 appearances as a professional.
You do not get through such an experience without a considerable amount of scar tissue but, of course, the key is survival, the understanding of what precisely is required to put it all behind you.
Rose knew well enough and has slaved to achieve it down all the intervening years.
In Augusta he said, "Expectations are very hard to deal with when you don't have the necessary skills to back them up. I think now I have a lot of trust in my game and I feel like if I put myself in a situation with a chance to win I have the tools at my disposal to enjoy the occasion and for the very least for it not to be overwhelming."
It did not happen at Augusta but at Merion those recent words were, from his first shots and jaunty strides into the day of his greatest examination, plainly touched with a hard edge of prophecy.
Phil Mickelson, five times a runner-up in the US Open and weighed down both by his yearnings and those of the crowd, could never regain the control he exerted on the first day. The Tiger was consumed by still another battalion of demons. Rory McIlroy, slipping ever further into the harsh realisation that inordinate ability can take you only so far without a certain steeliness of application, molested his clubs. Luke Donald forlornly took off his socks and looked into the water for his ball and another set of mangled hopes. And Lee Westwood, who fights so hard against the idea that his time has come and gone, fought gallantly to rescue something from the debris.
By contrast, Rose was serene. You recalled something else he said at Augusta. "I always felt heading into my thirties and since turning 30 that the years between 30 and 40 would be my prime. It was the time to put into practice all the things I had learnt and often had to learn the hard way.
"It makes me feel very much that in the next phase of my life I can make a great career. I do hope that 32 is that magic number because there are a few of us, including Adam Scott, at this age but I'm very glad to be in their number."
Scott, making the best of his dwindling days with a belly-putter, stole Rose's ground in Georgia but up in Pennsylvania they were separated not just by shots but a world of edge and confidence. "You go through various stages," Rose said. "An important one is learning to enjoy those moments when you are really on the edge, fighting for a big win. I'm passed that now. In golfing terms, I think I've hit the final stage, the last challenge."
He had indeed. At Merion he not only won a great prize of his profession. He announced that he was truly at home.
Please don't water down Boat Race's authenticity
Are you hugely gratified by the BBC decision, under pressure from Ofcom, to monitor more closely the language of the coxes wired for sound on the day of the Boat Race? No, and why would anyone applaud such a feeble fudge.
You either go for the authentic emotions of young men competing for a victory on the day for which they have put in the most gruelling training and then rely on mature reaction of viewers who live in the real world rather than one dreamt up at Broadcasting House. Or you let characters like Oxford's cox Oskar Zorrilla go out to do their business on their own terms in the howl of pressure to win. Eavesdroppers should not dictate any conversation.
India's jewel Dhawan nearly one that got away
No doubt Indian cricket had good reason to linger over the celebration of the careers of men like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. However, the rulers of the game which has given us such riveting entertainment during the Champions Trophy tournament really owe us an explanation for the delayed arrival of the mesmerising Shikhar Dhawan.
At the age of 27, and with a Test match average of 187 – after just one Test – Dhawan is a jewel who was kept under covers for too many years.
In his frustration, he threatened to leave cricket. We can only be grateful the disaster did not happen.
Garcia can learn from Seve's sound of silence
Sergio Garcia may take some time to recover from his mauling by the Merion galleries but he may be encouraged by the example of the greatest of his golfing compatriots. Seve Ballesteros, hard though it is to believe, was also a victim of beer tent wisdom. Once, near the end of his struggle to regain his genius, he was asked the taunting question, "Hey, buddy, didn't you used to be Seve Ballesteros?" The great man didn't reply. He marched on, trailing contempt.
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