Tony Jacklin remembers the feeling as if it were yesterday. Watching Justin Rose triumph in the most difficult test known to golf on a course frighteningly difficult even by US Open standards, Jacklin saw the future he hoped he would have for himself. Rose not only won a first major championship, he overcame the battle within, and in doing so proved that he has the mettle to deliver the major career denied Jacklin at his peak.
“Financially he was already comfortably off. He will probably make tens of millions out of this so that is not the issue it was for me. He can now just organise his life around the golf, say no to stuff that saps his energy and taking his eye off the ball. He is set up beautifully now. His life will be dedicated to seeing how many majors he can accumulate.
“I was flying by the seat of my pants. At the time I was with Mark McCormack and IMG. They were sending me all over the damn world doing this that and the other. I thought I had to do it. I thought they knew better, but ultimately they didn’t. You have to be fresh.”
Jacklin won his two majors within the space of 12 months, the Open Championship in 1969 and the US Open the following June. The latter provided his biggest career cheque, $30,000, with which, according the Arnold Palmer maxim – the point is not to be a millionaire but to live like one - he bought a Rolls Royce.
“I was opening garden fates and going to dinners in the West End and god knows, as well as trying to play golf in Australia and Japan. It was just a crazy merry go round for a couple of years for me and inevitably it showed. My major career was shortened dramatically because of that. After 1972 I didn’t feature any more in majors.”
At 32, Rose is approaching his peak, which, after his win at Merion, threatens even greater on course riches, beginning at next month’s Open Championship. “I think he will feel a surge of confidence at the Open coming off this win. He will be treated in a very special way when he gets up to Muirfield and that will help him. He already has the confidence, and being at home will give him a further lift. That confidence is worth a couple of shots a round.”
That confidence is rooted in substantial achievement. Rose has put his hand in the fire and survived, the value of that cannot be overstated. “I knew what was going through Justin’s mind, this tremendous pressure. I had a four-shot lead. The feeling is you are supposed to win this one. You can’t share that kind of pressure with anyone. You are in a very lonely place. This is a solitary pursuit. Coming through it and getting it done in the right way, as Justin did was a performance of the highest order. Those last two shots at 18 were just amazing, the shots of a great champion.”