ARDMORE, Pennsylvania: Justin Rose’s breakthrough win at the US Open could open the door for England’s golden generation of golfers to finally make their collective mark in the record books.
Rose, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Lee Westwood have long starred on the Ryder Cup stage and Donald and Westwood have risen to top the world rankings.
But until Merion Golf Club on Sunday, none of them had been able to lift one of the sports’s four major titles – the US and British Opens, the Masters and the PGA Championship.
The pressure on one of them to finally deliver on the biggest of stages was cranking up with each passing major.
Ulstermen Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke joined the club of major winners as did young Americans Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Still the English trophy cupboard remained empty and, prior to Merion, no Englishman had won a US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970 and none had won a major since Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters.
All that came to a glorious end on Sunday when 32-year-old Rose held his nerve down a gripping home stretch to stave off a late challenge from crowd favourite Phil Mickelson.
It was about time, for himself, and the country Rose said.
“There’s been a very strong crop of English players for quite some time now, with myself, obviously Westwood and then Poulter as well, Paul Casey was up there for a good while and is probably going to make a comeback, I think,” he said.
“I really hope it does inspire them And I think it was always going to be a matter of time before one of us broke through.
“It was just going to be who. And I always hoped it was going to be me to be the first, obviously. But I really hoped that it sort of has broken the spell and guys can continue to sort of match up some for themselves.”
Donald was paired with Rose for the last round at Merion and would have gained first-hand knowledge of how his close friend managed to keep his game together as Mickelson charged and the rain pelted down just as Rose was entering the tough last five holes of the course.
He had his own problems to deal with after an errant drive at the third struck and laid out one of the workers who was walking the course with another group.
After the mishap, Donald took a bogey at the third to start a run of three bogeys in a row, then a double bogey at six and, after a birdie at seven, made two more bogeys to end any chance at victory after starting the day, like Rose two adrift.
Had the roles been reversed would the final outcome have been different? No-one can tell, But Donald believes that the win by Rose is a door opener.
“It’s going to mean a lot. It’s been too long really,” he said.
“I think we’ve had a lot of talent coming out of England and hopefully we’ve broken our bad period. This will be a great week for Justin and for England.”
Next up is the British Open at Muirfield, eastern Scotland in a month’s time and there is another target to aim at there for English golfers as the country’s last winner in that tournament was Faldo in 1992 at, of all places, Muirfield.