Just when golf’s world order seemed clear, what with Rory -McIlroy and new Masters champion Jordan Spieth ruling the universe, the picture has become muddied again.
Blame it on Justin Rose, who on Sunday won the Zurich Classic with a -tournament-record 22-under-par 266. After his game -runner-up finish at Augusta and his win at TPC Louisiana, outside New Orleans, Rose has to be included among golf’s royalty. By virtue of his victory, he vaulted from ninth to sixth in the World Ranking.
Rose, a 34-year-old Englishman and one of the game’s politest gentlemen, has never truly gotten his due. Then again, he’s never stayed on a roll long enough to earn it. Yes, his one-shot victory over Cameron Tringale marked the sixth consecutive season in which Rose has won a PGA Tour event, but in each of the past five seasons he has also won only once. That said, he has always been capable of streaky brilliance, going back to that 1998 British Open in which he contended as an amateur and famously holed a wedge shot from the rough on the 72nd hole.
Rose quietly won the Quicken Loans National last July, and he -hadn’t been appearing on many leader boards before the Masters.
“Earlier this year, it looked impossible to win,” he said on Sunday. “I was struggling, and winning seemed very far off. So I’m very happy to have turned my game around the last three or four weeks.”
Rose learned the value of closing strong in 2012 at Medinah. His putting on the final three holes in a singles match against Phil Mickelson was the European Ryder Cup team’s sharpest dagger in an improbable comeback. It was much the same story at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, where Rose won his only major.
At TPC Louisiana all he did was pour in an 18-footer for birdie at the 17th hole to take the lead, then drain a 12-footer for birdie at the final hole.
“To finish strong is what I’m going to be most proud of when I look back at this tournament, knowing that I needed to do something walking to the 17th tee and pulling it off,” Rose said.
So who’s the best player in the world right this minute? Rory? Jordan? This much is clear: Rose belongs in the -conversation.