Behold the career of one Justin Peter Rose, 33 years old and carving his place in the golf world quite nicely, thank you.
With his almost-blew-it-but-didn't playoff win over Shawn Stefani in the Quicken Loans National at crispy Congressional on Sunday, Rose showed us many things. Among them:
• How to win on the PGA Tour for the fifth consecutive year, a streak topped only by Phil Mickelson (10 years) and Dustin Johnson (seven years). It should be noted that Mickelson's streak, as we barrel into July, has yet to be extended in 2014.
• How to back up and prove a major championship, as Rose joins Adam Scott by winning the year after his first major, avoiding one of those lost-in-the-wilderness post-major things, a combination of hangover and existential doubt that has plagued many a first-time major winner.
• How to handle the tough stuff. By winning at Merion last year, Rose tamed the USGA and their form of torture they call the U.S. Open. Then, on Sunday he took on a dry and fierce Congressional Country Club that was slaying the world's best players – only three players of 75 broke 70 – and fired a 1-under 70 to charge from three shots back and surge past 54-hole leader Patrick Reed.
Oh, yeah. Patrick Reed.
The 23-year-old who ordered a custom-made and custom-delivered bull's-eye to be placed on his back all year after his March declaration that he was a "top five" player in the world found out that life in the klieg lights can cause a little flop sweat. Reed was three-for-three in holding 54-hole leads entering Sunday, including twice already this year. But golf lashes out at those who presume to master it, and Reed shot 41 on Congressional's back nine, stumbling home like a drunk who couldn't find his hotel room key. His 77 assured him an 11th-place finish and more respect for the game.
Back to Rose. His Merion win on Father's Day 2013 was a masterpiece, his driver/4-iron to Merion's 18th for the par that won him his first major always in the annals of finest U.S. Open closings of all time. The question is, what do you do next? Tiger Woods has sort of made that answer hard in the past 15 years, because all he did was win more majors and more majors and more events and more events. Normal guys like Justin Rose can't just snap their fingers and do that.
Mind, Rose was playing capable golf entering Congressional. His tie-14th at the 2014 Masters and tie-12th at Pinehurst No. 2 is impressive stuff. Only Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker (!), Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Jim Furyk were also able to top-15 at both of this year's majors so far.
And now Rose has done it again, playing his best when conditions are toughest, overcoming his awful water ball on 18 when victory seemed his by making that 15-foot bogey putt. He heads back to the United Kingdom now, for the Scottish Open and then to Hoylake two weeks from Thursday for the Open Championship. You'd be a fool to not rate him a favorite.
SCORECARD OF THE WEEK
70-66-65 – 12-under 201, Stacy Lewis, winner, LPGA NW Arkansas Championship, Pinnacle County Club, Rogers, Ark.
Somebody alert the FIFA World Cup. It has competition for adrenalized drama.
The LPGA just continues to throw haymaker after haymaker for golf fans. This is a golden age of women's golf, sports fans. I hope you're rolling up your sleeves and diving in.
A week after Michelle Wie's U.S. Women's Open win, a victory that transcended the game and earned her appearances on the "Today Show," Fox News and CNN, Wie held the Saturday night lead in Arkansas. What a story, right? Except, the feisty and competitive and unstoppable Stacy Lewis, a home girl who went to the University of Arkansas and knows how to call them hogs, wanted a piece of Wie and fired a final-round 65 to edge yet another must-see talent, teenager Lydia Ko, by one stroke.
By the way, if Lewis shooting 65 on a Sunday sounds familiar, it nearly is. She dropped a cool 66 at Pinehurst No. 2 last Sunday to earn that silver medal and make Wie perspire just a tad.
Even Wie got into the Lewis-admiring act, tweeting out that Stacy Lewis, her Florida neighbor, is "such a baller." She then implored Lewis to take part in a new social media golf thing called the "Ice Bucket Challenge," in which the likes of Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Wie and – yes – now Lewis willingly dump a bucket of ice on their own head.
What are you gonna do? Kids are wacky.
Lewis said the Razorback State hometown pressure actually made her more nervous than the U.S. Open, which was a curious statement. What's Lewis saying, that Arkansas is more important than a national championship? Come on, Stace!
All right, all right. We'll cut her some slack. She's more than delivering the goods, and the LPGA is enjoying the deliveries nearly weekly. Next up, July 10-13, is the Women's British Open, and Lewis jets into the U.K. as defending champ. Maybe she'll even wear a plastic Razorback hog head at some point in her final round.
MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK
Every now and then we have to go big picture, and earning the Mully o' the Week this week is the main man himself, Tiger Woods, for even teeing it up at Congressional.
We all understand the Tiger Woods Foundation means something to Tiger, and we all understand his competitive jones is second to none. We all understand that microdiscectomy surgery is no joke, and takes more than three months to recover. But when Tiger Woods is throwing a 74-75 Thursday-Friday at us, and when Tiger Woods is missing the cut by four strokes, and when Tiger Woods is telling us how "encouraged" he is because his back felt OK and when Tiger Woods is beating only 12 guys in a field of 156 … something just doesn't feel right.
Tiger could have honored his foundation by not playing, still recovering, showing up at Congressional, pressing the flesh, doing the media rounds, honoring the winner, et cetera, without presenting us with an unsightly 36 holes of golf. All it did was give everyone more logs to heave on the Tiger-ripping bonfire, proclaim how finished he is, and state with certainty that Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships is as snug as a bug in a rug.
So, Tiger. How about you take a powder at Congressional, wait a few weeks more, skip the Quicken Loans National and … give that Tiger a mulligan!
BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK
"There's water over here … oh, Justin, that's wet!" – Jim Nantz, CBS, shouting at Justin Rose and his golf ball as his second shot from the trees sought H2O.
That was a fun moment on Sunday. Nantz underscored the urgency of the moment by barking out his warning, when in reality the golf swing was finished and the ball's fate was in the process of being decided by physics and gravity. No Nantz yellow flag, however frantic, was to change its destiny.
The entire CBS crew piled on Rose. Nick Faldo, Rose's mentor, was heartsick, like his dog got hit by a car. Peter Kostis was disgusted. And yet, it all worked out for Rose when he "saved" bogey with a 15-footer to get into the playoff with Stefani.
Best part was, Rose was on The Golf Channel afterward, explaining his thinking as to why he went for the risky play of trying to advance his second too far after driving in the trees. His explanation of the pin placement, and the desired trajectory and his goal for the second shot's arrival – front right bunker, or neck of the green – was enunciated with such Rose-like maturity and clarity, and in such a proper English accent, that you damn near believed he made the right play by the time he was done talking. Golfers need to sell things to themselves, I'm convinced. It's the only way to stay sane.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
It's a bit of quiet week, as America celebrates birthday No. 238 – Lookin' Good, USA! – and the PGA Tour heads to West Virginia for the Greenbrier. Apple pie for everyone. Tiger Woods, thankfully, will take the week off. Sadly, we will be deprived of any Michelle Wie/Stacy Lewis fireworks, so we'll have to settle for some black-market fireworks of our own, bought from one of those places with the big inflatable gorilla announcing its presence.