|Justin Rose celebrates with the winner’s trophy at the Quicken Loans National on Sunday. ( AP-Yonhap)|
Tied for the lead as he played the 18th hole at Congressional, Rose tried to hit through two trees left of the fairway and overturned the shot. It ran down a bank and into the water, and he had to hole a 15-foot bogey putt just to stay in the game.
That proved to be the biggest shot he hit all day.
Behind him, Stefani made bogey on the 17th and narrowly missed a birdie putt on the 18th to set up the first playoff in the eight-year history of this event.
And then it was Stefani who essentially repeated Rose’s mistake on the first extra hole at No. 18.
After taking a drop because the grandstands blocked his view of the green, he wanted to play his low punch to the right side of the green. His shot also had too much turn and bounded into the water. Rose hit the middle of the green from the fairway and two-putted for par. Stefani made double bogey.
It was Rose’s first win since the U.S. Open last summer at Merion, and it felt like he won another U.S. Open as tough as Congressional played.
With putting surfaces that had a brown tinge to them even before the leaders teed off, and thick rough all week, it was a far stronger test than when the Open was held in soggy conditions in 2011.
“Congressional got its reputation back after the U.S. Open,” Rose said. “I really enjoy this type of golf and this type of test. I think it tested all of us. I’m delighted.”
Rose and Stefani each closed with a 1-under 70 ― only six players broke par in the final round ― and finished at 4-under 280.
It was only the second time this year that the winning score was higher than the 36-hole lead (6 under). That also happened at Torrey Pines, which also hosted a U.S. Open.
Despite his blunder on the 18th, Rose earned his second chance.
He went 14 straight holes without making a bogey. Along with the 15-foot bogey putt he made on the 18th, he saved par on the 17th with an 8-foot putt.
Patrick Reed could have used some of that gritty play.
Reed, who started the final round with a two-shot lead, didn’t even finish in the top 10. He still had a two-shot lead at the turn, only to start the back nine with consecutive double bogeys on his way to a 41. He closed with a 77 and tied for 11th.
Seven players had a share of the lead at one point in the final round, and once Reed began his meltdown, Rose took over. He made birdie on No. 11, the toughest hole all week at Congressional, and used a fairway metal to gouge out of deep rough and onto the 14th green to avoid dropping a shot.
Langer takes Senior Players
PITTSBURGH (AP) ― Bernhard Langer gave away a four-shot lead in the final round of the Senior Players Championship and wondered where his game had gone.
“It was like, ‘This is not Bernhard Langer,’” he said, laughing. “Usually I’m a bit more steady.”
No matter. The two-time Masters champion regained his composure ― and more importantly his putting stroke ― to edge Jeff Sluman on the second hole of a playoff for his third victory of the year and third major title on the Champions Tour.
Langer made a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to tie Sluman at 15 under, then birdied the par-5 18th on the second hole of sudden death after a brilliant pitch from the rough to 5 feet.
The 56-year-old German thrust his arms skyward in triumph after one of the more trying of his 21 career victories on the 50-and-over circuit.
“It comes in all shades I guess,” Langer said after an even-par 70.
Sluman had a bogey-free 65 to match Langer’s four-round total of 15-under 265, but narrowly missed a birdie putt on the first playoff hole that would have won it. The 1988 PGA champion covered his face in his hands after the ball stayed out.
“I’m not going to hit a better putt than that,” Sluman said. “It just didn’t go in.”
It never seems to for Sluman, at least in playoffs. The 56-year-old American is 1-9 in his professional career when pushed to extra holes.