Golf is not fair. Golf is simply not fair.
Phil Mickelson, sentimental favorite and leader/co-leader every night of the U.S. Open, the guy who's somehow golf's everyman despite being a private-jet-flying multimillionaire, has once again fallen just short at the U.S. Open.
Justin Rose, an exceptional golfer whose time as a major winner has come, triumphed by two shots over Mickelson. Rose finished at +1 by playing smart golf, and even in the moments in which he had opportunities to fall short, controlled the damage. When he finished out with an unlikely par on 18, the toughest hole on the course, he dabbed at his eyes, the enormity of the moment finally catching up with him.
From there, it was just a matter of time. Mickelson hadn't even finished out the 17th when Rose tapped in his par putt on 18, so Rose had to watch as Mickelson tried to birdie either one of the two final holes to force a playoff.
He came so close, so very close ... but yet again, fell short.
He wasn't alone. This was a tournament in which each of the challengers coming into Sunday had a defining moment that cost them an opportunity:
— Luke Donald struck a spectator on #3, and proceeded to card over-par scores on that and the next three holes;
— Steve Stricker hit two shots out of bounds on #2;
— Jason Day lipped a virtual tap-in on 18;
— Hunter Mahan pushed an easy short putt past the hole on 15.
Much will be written in the coming hours and days about Mickelson, his would-be career-defining shot, and whether he "deserved" to win this. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Either way, Rose did.
This marked a significant career breakthrough for Rose, who had placed in the top 10 in two of the last five majors. Whether this is the start of a tremendous major-winning career for Rose, or whether Rose is stepping into the shoes of Stewart Cink, winning the 2009 British Open that everyone had wanted to go to Tom Watson, is a story for another day. In a week in which most of the best in golf surrendered to the brutal rough and treacherous greens of Merion, Rose was just good enough to win.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-