SPORTS

Justin Rose wins US Open; Phil Mickelson a bridesmaid again

Phil Mickelson deals with the rain during the fourth round of the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, Sunday, in Ardmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) - Justin Rose is the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open in 43 years.

Rose shot a closing 70 Sunday at Merion Golf Club for a 1-over 281 total and his first major championship. He finished two shots ahead of Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

The 32-year-old Rose overcame his share of misadventures on a challenging course. He took the solo lead for good when Mickelson and Mahan both dropped shots at No. 15.

He finished with a tap-in for par at the 18th, a hole that didn't yield a birdie over the final two rounds.

It's been a long wait for England since Tony Jacklin won the trophy in 1970. Rose has been in contention before. He tied for fifth in 2003 and tied for 10th in 2007.

Mickelson's chase for a first U.S. Open title took a hit with a double bogey on the third hole. Steve Stricker's hopes for a first major took an even bigger hit when he put two shots out of bounds at No. 2 and settled for an 8.

Still, it was hard to count out anyone who had a place on the leaderboard as the final groups approached the turn Sunday in the final round of the U.S. Open. Merion Golf Club turned out to be a place where golfers could post big numbers and live to tell the tale - or at least tread water with everyone else.

Luke Donald hit a volunteer with a tee shot on No. 3 and on No. 4, took off his left shoe and sock to play his ball next to Cobbs Creek. That bogey-bogey combo left him only three shots off the lead. Charl Schwartzel went briefly under par, then went the other way with a pair of bogeys.

Mickelson was the overnight leader at 1-under, but Lefty was scrambling from the start. His tee shot at the first landed in the rough, but he nearly birdied the hole when his 30-footer lipped out. He was in the sand at No. 2 yet missed a short putt for birdie. He finally paid the price for his waywardness when he put one in a bunker at the par-3 No. 3 and then 3-putted for a 5 that left no one under par for the tournament.

Hunter Mahan and his steady putter parred the first four holes to remain at even-par, the type of start that could carry him to his first major win.

Mickelson turned 43 on Sunday and fans serenaded him with a chorus of "Happy Birthday" when he showed up at the practice range before his afternoon tee time.

But nothing was going to be easy on a take-your-time course where high rough and hard greens have made for slow rounds, and the threat of rain made a Monday finish a realistic scenario - even without a playoff.

Mickelson was hoping to finally win the championship after finishing runner-up a record five times. Stricker, at age 46, is running out of time to win his first major. Both are famously proud papas: Mickelson flew cross-country on the eve of the tournament after watching his daughter graduate from eighth grade, and Stricker has been playing less on the PGA Tour to spend more time with his family.

Then there was Mahan, who is not quite a dad. On a day when seemingly every golfer was talking about the special day on Twitter, Mahan chimed in with: "Happy Fathers Day to everyone! A couple months before I get to join the club!"

Also in the mix were Donald and Justin Rose, each hoping to become the first Englishman to win the trophy since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

And don't forget Billy Horschel. He wouldn't let you if you tried. He played his round wearing what he called his "highly anticipated" and "highly controversial" octopus-print golf pants.

Mickelson's score was one ahead of Mahan, Stricker and Schwartzel after three rounds and two ahead of Donald, Rose and Horschel. All were taking aim at the red wicker baskets that sit atop the pins at Merion, all trying to follow Olin Dutra, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and David Graham as U.S. Open champions who conquered the tough little course in the Philadelphia suburbs.

While the leaders were waiting to tee off, Tiger Woods went through the motions of extending his majors drought into a sixth year. It was an unfamiliar sight to see the world's No. 1 golfer teeing off on a Sunday more than three hours before the top pairing, but he was 10 strokes off the lead after a third-round 76 that matched his worst U.S. Open round as a pro.

Woods wore his usual Sunday red shirt, but it didn't keep him from quickly achieving a dubious double - out of bounds and a 3-putt on the same hole. That made for a triple-bogey 8 at No. 2. He shot a 74 to finish 13 over par.

Sunday was five years to the day since Woods won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. His running tally of majors wins is stuck on 14, four shy of Jack Nicklaus' record.

"I did a lot of things right," Woods said. "Unfortunately, I did a few things wrong as well."

Hopes for a Grand Slam were also officially dashed. Masters champion Adam Scott shot a 75 to finish 15 over for the tournament.

Meanwhile, Shawn Stefani found a unique way to solve Merion: Hit the ball in the rough and get a hole-in-one. His 4-iron at the 213-yard, par-3 17th landed left of the green, bounced down the slope and meandered its way some 50 feet across the green and into the hole.

Stefani nearly jumped out of his skin. Then he kissed the spot where the ball landed.

"We're in Philly," he said. "There's some great fans up here, and I know they can be tough on you and they can love you forever. So I'm sure they appreciated me going to the ground and kissing it."

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