When Justin Rose holed his outrageous pitch on the 72nd hole of the 1998 Open Championship he looked to the heavens as the crowd erupted into applause at the arrival of this talented teenager.
Fifteen years later he again looked to the heavens, this time in memory of his late father Ken, as he completed his journey to Major Champion by winning the US Open at Merion.
It’s been a long and winding road since he burst onto the world stage in that high summer of 1998 and he has had to endure much in that time, first with 21 missed cuts from the moment he turned professional on his 18th birthday, all under the full glare of the media spotlight, and then the tragic loss of his father to cancer in 2002.
But through it all, Rose has held his head high, treating those twin imposters of triumph and disaster the same as he grew into the man, and champion, he is today.
Born in Johannesburg in 1980 before his family returned to England, he grew up in the middle of a golf obsession. By the time he was 12 years old he knew he was good. Becoming the youngest winner in this history of the illustrious Hampshire Hog around his home course of North Hants Golf Club at the age of 14, beating a host of the country’s top amateurs at the time, underlined this burgeoning talent. By the time he was 17 he knew he wanted to play professionally.
Then came the high of Royal Birkdale in 1998, only to be followed by the low of that run of missed cuts. That inevitably led to scars but over time they have faded, and this US Open victory has healed them completely.
“The scar tissue on the golf course, it just takes time to heal,” he admitted. “And it was a pretty traumatic start to my pro career. I've never really talked about it because you don't want to admit to that being the case, but I think when you've got past something you can talk openly about it. And it's sort of in the moment like this, can you talk about how I feel like I've come full circle confidence wise and game development wise.”
Rose won his first two European Tour titles in 2002 and then again won twice, in addition to three runner-up finishes, in 2007 on his way to winning the Harry Vardon Trophy as European Number One. His progression continued at a steady pace, winning twice in America in 2010 and then he claimed his first World Golf Championship title last year by winning the WGC – Cadillac Championship.
There followed the Ryder Cup heroics at Medinah last September, where he got the better of Phil Mickelson on Sunday’s singles to play his part in that historic European victory, but much as he loved the team celebrations in Chicago, his US Open win carries more satisfaction.
“The celebrations are much more fun when you win as a team,” he said as he compared the two. “Because everybody's egging each other on and collectively you've achieved something. So the camaraderie of it all is a very unique and very special thing. You've done it together. It's an amazing moment. And that was very, very special. And probably unique in the way in we won it. That's probably something that I'll never feel again.
“This is a journey. This is just such a satisfying feeling. And it goes back 20, 30 years for me of dreaming, of hoping, of practicing, of calloused hands. This could be the most satisfying, because there's no one helping you along the way. You've had to do it the hard way, you've had to do it yourself.”